BY KIRSTEN E. PAULSON
Seven airport taxi dispatchers were busted in an undercover sting operation and charged with unlawfully receiving cash bribes in a taxi-dispatching scheme at LaGuardia Airport, prosecutors said.
The seven defendants are all employees of Port Authority contractor Gateway Group One Frontline Services: Louis Evens, 57, of Valley Stream; Delia Gonzalez, 51, of East Elmhurst; Algimir Kabir, 60, of Kew Gardens; Claudine Roberts, 33, of the Bronx; Claude Tobias, 33, of the Bronx; Gary Luc Valerius, 55, of Valley Stream; and Michael Zalt, 66, of Woodside.
According to the charges, between February and June 2015, the defendants allegedly accepted cash payments of $5 to $10 to allow undercover taxi drivers to skip the long lines in the Central Taxi Holding Area, as required by the Port Authority, and instead go straight to the terminals to pick up passengers.
The alleged scheme was discovered in January 2015, when the Port Authority Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received multiple complaints that taxi dispatchers were allowing taxi drivers to respond to airport terminals without waiting in the central lot. The OIG and the Queens District Attorney’s Airport Investigations Unit launched an investigation that made use of informants and electronic surveillance.
The investigation culminated in the arrest of the seven defendants Wednesday morning when they showed up for what they believed was a Port Authority training session at the Central Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport.
Each of the drivers was charged with second-degree commercial bribe receiving, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities, and faces up to a year behind bars if convicted.