This year, more than 600 taxi drivers were implicated in a giant taxi scam in which drivers overcharged passengers more than $1.1 million by flipping switches on their meters that kicked in higher rates. In the wake of the scandal, the Taxi and Limousine Company scrambled to portray the incident as a series of isolated incidents and mistakes by a select number of drivers. But according to one of those taxi scammers, these were no Lee Harvey Oswalds: it really was all a giant evil conspiracy!
According to driver Joseph Kastner, a group of drivers would meet together at cabby conferences in garages around the city and plot their nefarious schemes. "I met a series of drivers who decided to rob the public. They were actually having meetings at my old garage," Kastner, 49, told the TLC during a Sept. 30 administrative court hearing. Kastner is one of those accused drivers; he is charged with allegedly cheated 3,925 passengers out of $7,756, the sixth highest amount for an individual driver. Kastner claims that he wanted to become a whistleblower, alleging that the scams were much bigger than let on previously, and that he had stuff on the TLC as well, but no one took his offer: "I tried to tell them over and over again at the hearing. They didn't listen to a word I said. They just don't want to hear it," he told the Post.
So is Kastner trying to escape his fate by alleging a citywide conspiracy, making up stories to look better, or is there really an underground network of thieving taxi drivers plotting to steal unwitting customer's money? TLC obviously didn't take his claims seriously, but the Post sides with Kastner, saying that other cabbies and industry insiders confirm his story, and bad hacks pull other stunts such as charging drivers to put on the heat, pressing the "extra" button on tolls and bridges, and posing as livery drivers at airports and charging more than double the flat fee of $45 to Manhattan. Whether or not the conspiracy is as widespread as Kastner would have you believe, the best thing you can do is consult the Passenger Bill of Rights, and always be vigilant of extra charges of any kind.