Saturday 10 December 2016

NY cabbies and the $8m fare swindle

James Bone in New York

Published 23/03/2010 | 05:00

Bouncing for 12 hours a day along potholed streets with strangers in the back has made New York's taxi drivers famously eccentric. Now the city that never sleeps has evidence of what its citizens have long suspected: some of the drivers are crooks as well.

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A passenger returning home late one night was charged more than usual, sparking the biggest taxi scandal in US history. Dr Mitchell Lee grew suspicious when he was charged $7 (€5) for his usual $5 (€3.60) ride home from NYU Medical Centre in Manhattan to Park Avenue.

"I asked the driver why the meter was going faster than normal," he said.

Wasim Khalid Cheema, the driver, claimed that nothing was wrong but then told Dr Lee just to pay what he normally paid. Dr Lee did not leave it at that, filing a complaint with the regulator.

Dr Lee's $2 complaint exposed a swindle involving as many as 35,558 of the city's 48,300 cabbies. The trick was to push a button on the meter that charges double for trips to the suburbs on the principle that the cab is bound to return to the city empty. The scam added an average of $4.45 to the fare on 1.8 million rides, cheating passengers out of an estimated $8.3m in the past two years.

Investigators believe Mr Cheema overcharged 574 passengers in just one month. In all, he is may have taken about $40,000 in illicit fares. (©The Times, London)

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