Seven taxi dispatchers have been brought up on criminal charges after allegedly being caught taking bribes from taxi drivers to cut the line at LaGuardia Airport, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
The seven defendants weren’t extracting a huge amount of money — five or ten dollars at a time — but were allegedly making several hundred dollars a day for letting crooked (brilliant?) cabbies sneak to the front, thereby avoiding downtime.
According to Brown’s office, the taxi line system is designed to ensure fair access for all drivers. Cabbies are supposed to enter the airport and go to a holding pen, where they sometimes wait for up to three hours, before continuing to the queues at terminal entrances. The seven dispatchers singled out by the D.A. allegedly allowed drivers to drive directly to the terminals, potentially sparing them the long lines common in the holding zone.
The investigation began in January and employed all the trappings of a Wire-style drug sting, with electronic surveillance and confidential informants. The charges the seven defendants face aren’t exactly serious — all are misdemeanors — and include second-degree “commercial bribe receiving,” official misconduct, and receipt of unlawful gratuities. All of the dispatchers are employees of Gateway Group One Frontline Services, a contractor with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We reached out to the company for comment and will update the post when we hear back.
Port Authority Inspector General Michael Nestor said in a press release that the defendants “sold out their position of public trust and chose to line their pockets and enrich themselves. The defendants took unfair advantage of a dispatching process that was created to provide a level playing field for all cab drivers.”
Life is always easier if you can just figure out who to bribe and who’s on the take. (Just ask Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos, etc.) But thank goodness these dispatchers are off the streets.
Update 8/12/15 2:52 p.m.: A public relations representative for Gateway Group One told us, in part: “As soon we received information through our anonymous tips hotline and through our quality control audits about the scheme, we immediately conducted a internal investigation and we’ve been a full partner with Queens District Attorney and Port Authority Inspector General’s office throughout the process. We have zero tolerance for acts that violate the public trust and discredit the majority of honest dispatchers, who provide valuable service at the airports.” The D.A.’s office noted in their press release that they appreciated the company’s “support and assistance” during the investigation.