Doc's Complaint Exposed $8M Taxi Swindle - NBC New York

Doc's Complaint Exposed $8M Taxi Swindle

His $2 overcharge set off the investigation



    Doc's Complaint Exposed $8M Taxi Swindle
    Taxi meters show a "4" in the left corner, as seen here, when the out-of-town rate is on.

    It could be the most valuable $2 in New York City.

    A local anesthesiologist is credited with setting off the investigation that uncovered the shocking $8 million taxi scam.

    On his early morning ride back home from NYU Medical Center last August, Dr. Mitchell Lee became suspicious when the usual $5 fare jumped up to $7.   Because he would routinely take the same ride home, the fare never fluctuated.

    But on this particular night, something was off.

    “It was obvious when the meter was going fast," Lee told the New York Post. "I asked the driver why the meter was going faster than normal, if there was breakage."

    Lee’s driver, Wasim Khalid Cheema, challenged him at first, but then told him to pay what he normally does.

    Instead, Lee paid the full $7 fare with a credit card and filed a complaint online with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The TLC investigation revealed that about three-fourths of all the city’s taxi drivers, more than 35,000 cabbies, had swindled riders out of $8.3 million.

    Cheema himself cheated 574 riders in a single month, and made about $40,000 more than the average driver in six months. In order to raise the fares, he changed his meter from Rate 1 to Rate 4, the code used in Nassau and Westchester counties.

    "New Yorkers are smarter than cabbies think," Lee said.

    According to the Post, TLC chief Matthew Daus said that within the next week or so, the back seat screens of all taxis will immediately alert passengers if the rate has been suddenly changed, and they will have to push the screen to acknowledge the change or it will not go through.

    The TLC is also working to reimburse as much of the overcharged money as possible.

    Lee, who has a family member who drives a livery car, still sympathizes for cabdrivers.

    He said, "Besides dentists and lawyers, cabbies have the hardest jobs because everyone hates them."