More than 50 New York City taxi drivers have been accused in a massive fare skimming scam, ripping off riders by manipulating fare meters, authorities charged Wednesday.
In the largest such takedown in city history, 59 cabbies were charged with stealing more than $235,000 during some 77,000 fares over the last 20 months, officials said.
"No one is above the law or below our radar," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. "Although the overcharged amount for each trip may only have been a few dollars, this kind of aggressive scam sends ripples of mistrust throughout our city."
The Taxi and Limousine Commission said that some 2,000 drivers have charged an incorrect fare but most have been punished administratively with fines or by yanking their licenses, said David Yassky, TLC commissioner.
However cabbies who allegedly cheated at least 300 times were charged criminally, Vance said.
He identified the worst offenders as: Santiago Rossi, 66, of Hollis, Queens with 5,127 overcharges costing riders $11,466.45; Mfamara Camara, 38, of the Bronx: 4,772 overcharges at $15,502.30 and Norman Feiner, 38, of South River, New Jersey with 4,348 overcharges costing $4,288.85.
Officials said the cheating cabbies charged riders double by bumping up the fare to the suburban rate, even though they were in the city. Authorities unmasked the scam earlier this year, after a tip from a passenger led to an investigation.
“This criminal conduct struck a raw nerve with the public because a trip in a yellow taxicab is a quintessential New York experience for visitors to the city, and a needed means of transportation for many New Yorkers,” said Rose Gill Hearn, the City's Commissioner of Investigations.
Of those arrested Wednesday, 45, were charged with a felony -- first-degree scheme to defraud, punishable by up to four years in prison upon conviction. The remaining 14 were charged with more than 5,000 misdemeanor counts of petty larceny.