4 New Yorkers claimed in a lawsuit on Thursday that undercover Taxi and Limousine Fee officers entrap people of color as half of a crackdown on illegal cab drivers at JFK and LaGuardia airports.
Within the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal courtroom, the 4 males allege that undercover brokers from the town’s Taxi and Limousine Fee posing as determined guests stranded at the airports “begged and groveled” for rides.
Choosing up passengers for a fare with out a TLC license is a violation of the town’s road hail legislation, which was created to guard the pursuits of authorized cabs and deter human trafficking. Avenue hail violations have a minimal penalty of $1,500 for a primary violation.
“The TLC’s sting operations primarily target people of color, immigrants or people with limited English proficiency, many of whom, like the plaintiffs, have just dropped off their family members or friends at the airport,” reads the swimsuit, which seeks class-action standing.
Belinda Luu, an lawyer with Mobilization for Justice who filed the swimsuit, stated the group has acquired roughly 150 calls about instances like these lately. Practically all of the complaints got here from people of color, she stated.
Stanford Miller, who’s a Black Jamaican American and a plaintiff within the swimsuit, stated he dropped off his relations at JFK Airport in August 2021 when an older girl who was “struggling with her luggage” approached him for a trip to a different half of Queens.
“I felt compassion for her and agreed to drive her since I was heading back there anyway,” stated Miller, who doesn’t work as a taxi or for-hire automobile driver, in a press release.
The girl then disclosed that she was a TLC officer and issued him a $1,500 high-quality, Miller stated.
“The city is claiming to operate these undercover practices and fines under the guise of public safety,” stated Luu, the lawyer. “But in reality, the city is just making money off of working-class people.”
Whereas entrapment is a protection in felony courtroom, it’s not a protection for a violation of the town’s road hail legislation, Luu stated.
TLC officers have issued roughly 5,600 tickets for road hail violations at JFK and LaGuardia airports since 2019, Luu stated. She estimates they’re primarily derived from undercover operations like these, drumming up roughly $8.4 million in fines.
“It’s a very lucrative revenue source for the TLC,” Luu stated.
TLC and Legislation Division representatives didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
George Numfor, one other plaintiff who lately emigrated from Cameroon, claims TLC officers focused him at JFK final March. Numfor was an Uber driver at the time, however didn’t have a TLC license. He was solely approved to drop off passengers in New York Metropolis when he picked them up outdoors the 5 boroughs.
He stated he’d simply dropped off a passenger from Westchester County at the airport when a person approached his Hyundai Santa Fe for a trip to LaGuardia Airport. Numfor stated he refused.
“Then another gentleman walked towards the driver’s side and presented his badge and asked for my ID,” Numfor stated.
The TLC officers’ aluminum badges confused Numfor, who thought they had been NYPD officers. “I was very scared,” Numfor stated.
Numfor was supporting his three children within the Bronx on his driving wage – which got here out to $35,000 that yr, he stated.
Numfor stated the officers instructed him he appeared like “a nice guy” and inspired him to combat the ticket. He ultimately paid $500 to settle the case, fearing the ticket would endanger his software for a TLC license, he stated.
TLC officers will not be required to document these sorts of encounters, stated Luu.
“There’s really no objective record of what happened, and that’s part of the reason it’s so difficult to challenge the violation at a hearing,” Luu stated. “Many people end up settling because they’re worried about the risk of a license suspension or a $1,500 fine.”