Stiffed out of $11M by deadbeat hacks
The Taxi & Limousine Commission has collected only half the fines it handed out over the last six years — partly because a gaping loophole in the law protects many deadbeat drivers, The Post has learned.
Records provided by the agency show it took in just $11.9 million of the $23.2 million in summonses issued since July 1, 2004.
Officials said at least $5.75 million wasn’t entered onto the court dockets because the law doesn’t allow the TLC to pursue licensed cabbies once they surrender or lose their licenses.
“We have not had the authority to go after these debtors in the full way we’d like to,” said newly named taxi chief David Yassky, adding that he is seeking state legislation to remedy that astonishing oversight.
The law was written assuming the TLC wouldn’t have any issues collecting from licensed deadbeats since their livelihoods are on the line if they don’t settle up.
“If they don’t pay, we can take their license,” one official said.
With that much power at its disposal, the TLC can’t go to court to garnishee wages or freeze a bank account belonging to a licensed individual.
Unlicensed drivers, on the other hand, are totally fair game.
That can make for some problematic situations.
The TLC is currently deciding how to punish thousands of drivers caught setting their meters to the higher out-of-town rate for rides within the city. Fines could run up to $5,000.
But, officials conceded, they won’t be able to collect if a crooked driver decides to simply walk away from the profession. The worst four-dozen offenders face criminal prosecution.
TLC records show that 19 drivers and car-service companies owe at least $10,000 each dating back years.
Leading the pack is Pegasus Car Service of Brooklyn, which ran up a $36,585 tab for operating without a license on 33 occasions.
The chances of the city seeing a dime of that money are remote since the company dissolved in 2002, according to state records.
There’s also not much hope of getting the $16,600 owed by Issa Bah, a livery driver who is No. 2 on the list and was charged with operating a vehicle multiple times while his license was suspended. A Harlem neighbor said he has returned to Africa.
The Post was unsuccessful in tracking down any of the other debtors.
Officials couldn’t explain why the TLC waited so long to try to get the state law changed.
Which is not to say that former officials didn’t do anything with the aging debt load.
Several years ago, they requested that the city comptroller allow them to write off a mountain of uncollected debt. The comptroller didn’t act and “nothing happened,” said one source.
By DAVID SEIFMAN City Hall Bureau Chief
Additional reporting by Erin Calabrese