NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is cracking down on illegal taxis at the airports – with cabbies that are allegedly ripping off unsuspecting tourists and that sometimes are not even licensed.
CBS2’s Sonia Rincon went along exclusively on an undercover sting at John F. Kennedy International Airport to show us how they’re caught.
In the sting, TLC inspectors posed as travelers in need of cabs. One Uber driver who offers to take them was busted — losing his car. He was too mortified to talk about it.
Another driver gave the undercover inspectors a price quote.
“Seventy dollars — that was a flat fare including tolls,” an inspector said. “He just told us to get in.”
The second driver was apologetic — and bewildered that his car was taken.
“I don’t know what’s happened,” said the livery driver, Rebhi Abdel Atif. “Just mistake.”
And another driver also denied everything. He said someone wanted to go to LaGuardia Airport, but denied that he called for a flat fare of $50.
“No. I didn’t say nothing,” said the driver, Fransisco Almonte.
A green cab was also spotted trying to pick up passengers at the airport, even though green cabs are not allowed to do so.
The driver, Jude Joseph, claimed he did not know about the restriction for green cabs.
When asked if he would ever try to make a pickup at the airport again, he said, “No, never, because now I know.”
Car after car was lined up and towed away, and drivers will have to come up with up to $900 in summons costs, as well as fees, to spring their cars.
The simple rule is that only yellow cabs can pick up passengers at the airport who want to hail a taxi. Livery cabs and car service cars can do it, but only if the ride is pre-arranged.
The problem is that once livery cab and service car drivers are at the airport, they’re tempted to make some extra cash and skirt the rules.
Also seen were what the inspectors called straight plates — people who aren’t cab drivers at all, but charge for rides anyway.
“I’m not a car service,” said one man who was accused of charging for rides as if he were a cabbie.
The TLC said such drivers are obviously the most risky.
“The TLC has not done a criminal background check; has not run a drug test on the driver. The vehicle is not properly registered. The vehicle isn’t inspected to the TLC’s stringent standards,” said TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg.
And livery cabs that aren’t dispatched can’t be held accountable.
“You’re completely off the grid. So if something goes wrong, for whatever reason, we don’t know who that driver was. We have no record of the vehicle being dispatched,” Fromberg said. “So if something goes wrong, that passenger could be high and dry and we can’t be of assistance.”
And then there are really ugly scenarios, such as extreme price gouging.
“Luggage is actually held hostage until the passenger pays up an astronomical fee or fare for that ride,” said Edwin Lorenzi, deputy chief of TLC enforcement. “There have been incidents where they get into altercations with drivers.”
The TLC is cracking down constantly. The sting on Thursday ended with 28 summonses handed out.