Eight taxi dispatchers have been accused of taking bribes to let cabbies cut in line to pick up passengers at LaGuardia Airport, prosecutors say.
The dispatchers, employed by a Port Authority contractor, each face counts of official misconduct, receiving unlawful gratuities and commercial bribery for their roles in the scheme at the airport's B terminal, according to the Queens District Attorney's office.
So far, seven of the eight dispatchers are in custody, authorities say.
Prosecutors say the dispatchers allegedly let taxi drivers skip past a holding lot for taxis at the airport in exchange for a $5 to $10 cash payment. The drivers who paid off the dispatchers would go straight to the terminal to pick up passengers without waiting in line.
The dispatchers, who made $15 an hour plus benefits, pocketed as much as an extra $1,000 cash during the scheme, which was uncovered in January when some drivers complained about taxis cutting the line, according to prosecutors.
The Port Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrests.
Normally, drivers at the airport have to wait in a holding lot for up to two hours before picking up fares at the airport. Cabbies taking passengers to areas near the airport in Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County can avoid the line by being issued a "hort haul ticket by a dispatcher, but dispatchers aren't allowed to accept cash payments for the so-called "shorty" tickets.
Taxi dispatch company Gateway Group One said it immediately conducted an internal investigation after getting information about the bribes through its anonymous tips hotline and quality control units and is cooperating fully with investigators.
"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 statement said. "All of our dispatchers receive ethics training, are provided with tools to report suspicious activity and are trained that anytime a taxi driver tries to circumvent the rules, it must be immediately reported -- and over the course of the years many have done so."
The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission lauded the arrests.
"A taxi driver’s wages come from passenger fares and tips, many of which require waiting in an airport holding lot to be dispatched," TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said in a statement. "Drivers should not then be made to feel as if they must pay extra to have access to waiting airport passengers, and the public should not have to withstand any delay in service brought about by such greed."