New York, Sept 24 (ANI): A Manhattan court has charged 59 cabbies of cheating some 77,000 riders in the most "widespread con operation" in the industry's history.
According to The New York Post, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. hit 45 of them with the felony charge of scheming to defraud by charging the double-rate suburban fare for rides within the city from November 2008 to June 2010, which is punishable by up to four years in prison.
In addition, 14 other drivers were charged with more than 5,000 counts of petit larceny. They either cheated fewer passengers or scammed them for lesser amounts, officials said.
Vance's spokeswoman said the cabbies were charged with duping passengers off more than 235,000 dollars over the last 20 months.
The suspects' taxi licenses were reportedly suspended.
Meanwhile, victims of the scandal rejoiced at the news.
"I'm proud New York City took issue with this and did something about it," the paper quoted a resident, as saying.
Vance said the victims were mostly travelling to and from airports, Grand Central Terminal and Times Square and added that more drivers could be busted because the DA's office arrested only drivers who pulled the scam using one of three types of taxi meters, called a "CMT." The investigation is ongoing.
According to the paper, the drivers were lured into appearing at TLC headquarters but when they appeared, they were authorities ushered them into a room, told them to stand against the wall, and arrested them.
"It's not fair. It was tricky. I would expect this from a Third World country, but not from a civilized country like this," said Hassan Chowdhury, who allegedly stole nearly 6,000 dollars by hitting the Rate 4 button 3,126 times.
Drivers have maintained that the overcharges were innocent mistakes, and they accidentally hit the button that engaged Rate 4.
TLC Commissioner David Yassky, however, said the scam likely had a humble beginning, with one driver discovering the quick moneymaking scheme, and then spreading the word. (ANI)