Authorities arrested more than a dozen John F. Kennedy International Airport taxi dispatchers who allegedly took bribes from drivers who wanted to "cut the line" for fares.
The 16 dispatchers, employed by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey subcontractor Gateway Group One Frontline Services, allegedly took bribes in exchange for letting drivers bypass the central holding area, where they may have to wait for hours, and go directly to the terminal pick-up area.
"Though the alleged bribes paid each time amounted to only a few dollars, on busy days, thousands of cabs pass through JFK’s terminals during an eight-hour shift – giving a dishonest dispatcher the opportunity to illegally make hundreds of dollars on a daily basis," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
Brown accused the dispatchers of trying to rig the system. He explained the job of airport taxi dispatchers is to regulate the movement of taxis from a central taxi holding area to a terminal taxi pick-up area. The average wait in the holding area is about two to three hours, after which time the taxis are summoned as needed for incoming flights from the holding area to terminal pick-up in the order that they arrived.
Upon exiting the holding lot, each taxi driver is issued a “dispatch ticket,” on which is printed the taxi’s medallion number, as well as the date and time of their exiting the holding area.
The alleged scheme was uncovered in December 2012 when Port Authority officials received a tip alleging taxi dispatchers at JFK were allowing taxi drivers to go to the terminal pick-up area without waiting in the central holding lot. Officials launched an investigation using confidential informants and surveillance.
According to court documents, the arrested dispatchers allegedly accepted cash payments from undercover taxi drivers who would then skip long lines in the central holding area and go directly to the terminals.
Those arrested face charges of second-degree commercial bribe receiving, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities, all misdemeanors. The suspects range in age from 23 to 62 and live in various parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
"These defendants sold out their position of public trust and chose to line their pockets and enrich themselves," Port Authority Inspector General Robert Van Etten said in a statement. "The defendants took unfair advantage of a dispatching process that was created to provide a level playing field for all cab drivers.