Melrose Man Accused of Participating in Taxi Bribery Scheme
Five Massport employees, including one from Melrose, allegedly participated in a taxi bribe scheme at Logan Airport's cab stands, according to a press statement.
Five Massport employees, including one from Melrose, were arrested Tuesday for allegedly taking bribes from taxi drivers in exchange for preferential – and illegal – treatment at Logan Airport’s cab stands, according to a press statement.
According to the statement, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, and Massport CEO and Executive Director Thomas Glynn announced the arrests of: Michael Garvey, 51, of Melrose; Kenneth Clement, 67, of Attleboro; Vadim Mkrtychev, 37, of West Roxbury; James Mulrey, 45, of Canton; and Donald Potts, 47, of Medford.
All five defendants are employed as Ground Transportation Unit agents, known colloquially as “cab starters,” reads the statement. Each defendant is charged with accepting a corrupt gift under Chapter 268A, Section 2, of the Massachusetts General Laws, according to the statement. Additional defendants could be charged in the weeks ahead, authorities said in the statement.
State Police assigned to the Logan Airport barracks arrested all five defendants on warrants obtained during a long-term investigation that included video surveillance, secretly-recorded conversations with the defendants, the review of GPS monitoring devices on Boston taxi cabs and additional evidence developed by State Police investigators since September 2012, according to the statement.
“One of the responsibilities of law enforcement in facilitating commerce and tourism in Massachusetts is to root out corruption within the transportation industry,” said Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of Massachusetts State Police, in the statement. “That means not only protecting travelers, but also ensuring a level playing field for all vendors. The alleged actions of the taxi dispatchers charged today demanded a swift and definitive response, and that is what they got. I am proud of the work done by Troop F of the State Police and grateful for the assistance of the Port Authority in this investigation.”
“Working men and women shouldn’t have to grease someone’s palm just to make an honest living, but the defendants are accused of demanding just that,” District Attorney Daniel Conley said in the statement. “At the same time, the taxi drivers who allegedly paid them off enjoyed a tremendous financial advantage over drivers who played honestly and by the rules. It’s not fair, and it won’t be tolerated.”
“Abusing the public’s trust will not be tolerated and Massport’s Information Technology department worked collaboratively with the State Police to assist in the investigation,’’ said Thomas Glynn, CEO and executive director of Massport, in the statement. “Over the past year Massport, working with Troop F, has increased the number of troopers in the airport hackney unit and we are evaluating various systems that will increase our ability to make certain that each and every cab that lines up at our terminal curbs was dispatched from the taxi pool.”
The procedure for taxi cabs operating at the airport is regulated such that drivers are supposed to report to the Taxi Pool, get a pool ticket, place that ticket on their dashboard and line up in rows until dispatched to a terminal cab stand, which is staffed by a Ground Transportation Unit agent, according to the statement. The wait time until dispatch is on average an hour to an hour and a half, but can be longer if fewer passengers need cabs on a given day, reads the statement.
Drivers who fail to report to the Taxi Pool and instead report directly to a cab stand are known as “jumpers,” reads the statement. The Ground Transportation Unit agents, or “starters,” who man the cab stands are supposed to issue violations to drivers who undertake this practice, reads the statement. The defendants, in contrast, allegedly took bribes from drivers in exchange for allowing them to skip the wait in the Taxi Pool, the statement continues.
Some jumpers who spoke with State Police investigators estimated that they made about $350 per day following procedure, but could make as much as $600 per day by paying off starters to let them jump into line at a cab stand without first waiting in the Taxi Pool, according to the statement. The starters also would allegedly steer higher-priced fares, such as those heading beyond Route 128, to jumpers who bribed them more, reads the statement.
From November 2012 to January 2013, the defendants received more than $1,000 in alleged bribe money as part of the investigation, according to the statement. They are accused of taking $20 to $40 for allowing drivers to “jump” into their cab stands, although the investigation suggests that some “starters” would take scratch tickets, cigarettes and other goods in lieu of cash, according to the statement.
Cooperating witness statements and the use of recording devices during interactions with the defendants help State Police make progress in the investigation, according to the statement. Pursuant to Massachusetts law regarding one-party consent recordings, State Police went before Suffolk Superior Court judges every two weeks to inform the court of their progress in the investigation and obtain permission to continue using the devices, according to the statement.
Four defendants were arrested at the airport this afternoon; a fifth was arrested at his home, reads the statement. All five are expected to be arraigned Wednesday in East Boston District Court, according to the statement.