Lawmakers Call For Tougher Penalties, Vow To Investigate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Aggressive drivers who pretend to be working for Uber have been preying on people at local airports, and CBS2 has learned that some are also charging false “taxes.”

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the fake Uber drivers trawl for customers at the city’s airports. As CBS2 first reported on Wednesday, the drivers are known as illegal hustlers – seeking to overcharge passengers for rides.

One driver at LaGuardia Airport said it would cost $65 to get into Manhattan, even though it should cost no more than $40. The driver also said passengers could pay by cash or credit card – which might be the most important factor for the unsuspecting.

One receipt examined by CBS2 showed a passenger’s credit card was billed for a 10 percent “sale” tax. Real Uber drivers charge an 8.75 percent sales tax.

CBS2’s Kramer showed the receipt to Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi, who said it is another scam – a way for the hustlers to squeeze more money out of people.

“It’s a little hard to charge tax on something that’s illegal to begin with,” Joshi said. “So you don’t have tax on a drug sale.”

Joshi said there is no change that any of the money is really going to the city or the state.

“It’s completely illegal,” she said. “It’s like robbery.”

CBS2’s story, and the undercover video of hustler after hustler offering Kramer rides into Manhattan for vastly inflated prices, has attracted the attention of a number of lawmakers. Manhattan City Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-4th) said he is introducing legislation to increase the penalties – both fines and jail time.

“They’re charging you more money than you need to be paying. It’s reprehensible,” Garodnick said. “For these guys, it appears that the penalties are just the cost of doing business. We need to raise those penalties.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) also spoke out against the scam.

“This is a modern spin on an age-old hustle, and i’s every bit as unacceptable to scam customers now as it was before Uber or any of the app hails ever existed,” he said. “You know, the truth is it’s dangerous, it’s scary, and it’s a ripoff.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio is also getting into the act, saying through a spokesman that the city will investigate the scams and hold people accountable for breaking the law, and examine ways to prevent such scams in the future.