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Nine taxi dispatchers at John F. Kennedy airport in Queens were accused of accepting bribes from cabbies who wanted to cut the passenger pick-up line. The scheme involved the dispatchers taking cash payments, usually less than $20 each, from drivers who wanted to skip to the front of the line in the central holding area. Between January 2022 and February 2024, the nine defendants allegedly pocketed more than $12,000 in bribes, with four of them accepting over $1,000 each. They are now facing first-degree felony charges of commercial bribe receiving.

The Port Authority began receiving complaints in 2022 about the dispatchers accepting cash to help drivers more efficiently pick up fares. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz called the scheme “reprehensible” and vowed to take action. Dispatchers at JFK are responsible for overseeing how taxis move from the central holding lot to the terminal pickup areas, ensuring fairness and efficiency in the process. This is not the first time dispatchers or drivers have been accused of trying to manipulate the system at the international airport.

In a separate case, Queens cabbies Daniel Abayev and Peter Layman were sentenced to prison in February for charging drivers $10 each to skip the queue by working with Russian hackers to breach the JFK taxi dispatch system. The recent suspects in the bribery scheme include residents of Queens and Brooklyn, who were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on charges of commercial bribe receiving, official misconduct, and receiving unlawful gratuities. An arrest warrant has also been obtained for an unidentified 10th dispatcher involved in the scheme.

Nicholas Dayan, who represents several of the accused dispatchers, stated that his clients are hard-working individuals who make minimum wages and believes the case will resolve itself. Taxi and Limousine Commission Chair David Do condemned the bribery scheme as reprehensible and emphasized the importance of public safety and playing by the rules for drivers’ prosperity. He stated that licenses would be revoked for any drivers involved in bribery or illegal operations.

The scandal at JFK airport highlights the challenges faced by yellow cab drivers who are already struggling to make a living. The corruption and greed displayed by the dispatchers not only disrupt the fair distribution of fares but also negatively impact drivers’ livelihoods. Authorities are working to ensure that such practices are eliminated and that drivers can operate within a system that upholds integrity and fairness. The arrests and charges against the dispatchers send a clear message that these unethical practices will not be tolerated and will be met with legal consequences to maintain the integrity of the taxi industry.

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