As a preface I wish the reader to know that this is my third visit to New York City sponsored by the Tribal Link Organisation to participate in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in my first visit in 2008 I heard nothing of what I am going to describe below, last year 1 of my 4 room-mates (from Kenya) related the same negative experience from La-Guardia International Airport to Manhattan Island; but to be honest I thought it was a one-off affair and opted NOT to write anything about it at the time.

The ‘Taxi Scam‘ generally follows these two patterns:

yellow-cab_InteriorIndigenous delegates exit the US Customs Hall at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), while still in the building and having not yet exited – they are spotted by a gentleman dressed as an Airport employee replete with uniform, walkie-talkie and ID badge.

(Perhaps thisspotteractually IS a JFK employee authorized to be in this area – and is merely working in collusion with bogustaxi driver accomplices).

The ‘spotter’ then approaches the newly arrived passenger and very politely says “Excuse me Sir (or Madame – as warranted) do you need a taxi?

The unsuspecting passenger then replies in the affirmative, the ‘spotter‘ then whips out his Walkie-Talkie and calls the ‘driver‘; and a reasonable price of US$20.00 is confirmed prior to the passenger committing.

In a few short minutes (only two on average) – an unmarked ‘taxi‘ pulls up to the curb (thetaxiis usually described as being a black or Grey vehicle) and the passenger embarks on his unfortunate journey. These ‘taxis‘ have no meter contained therein (because they are actually private cars).

Once en-route the ‘driver’ shows a map of New York City and carefully explains that “There are 5 zones in the city and to pass through each zone will cost US$20.00 extra” – thereby saddling the unsuspecting passenger with a final fare of US$120.00 to travel from JFK to their final destination anywhere on Manhattan Island.

If the passenger refuses to pay and demands to be taken back to the airport (as some have done) – the ‘driver‘ (who is usually physically intimidating in size) agrees to do so but angrily demands to be paid US$40.00 immediately “for the trip from – and back to – the airport“, the driver then goes on to convincingly explain to the passenger that he/she will only end up paying more because “the next taxi will charge them the exact same fare” – hence the passenger, sensing the ‘futility of resisting‘ – gives-in and agrees to the literal ‘Highway Robbery‘.

GroundTransport1In the other scenario perpetrated the ‘spotter‘ identifies the new visitors who initially do the right thing and and head straight from the Customs hall exit to the authorized Ground Transportation Information Center (GTIC) – situated near the exit doors at the airport.

The passenger then follows the right process in acquiring a legitimate ticket from the GTIC desk to his/her final destination, and then takes a seat on the bench provided in close proximity.

As soon as the genuine ticket issuing agent is either distracted by another passenger or briefly leaves the desk for any reason – the spotter swoops in and tells the passenger “Could I see your ticket Sir/Madame?” The unsuspecting passenger obliges, the ‘spotter‘ then uses his walkie-talkie to call the ‘driver‘ and then verbally confirms “Your taxi is outside right now – please follow me!

Again, the passenger follows what seems to be a normal expected routine – and another innocent visitor to the ‘Big Apple‘ is cheated of US$120.00.

I too have come to New York this year as a foreign visitor to attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 19-29 April 2010, but luckily this has never happened to me, however I am aware of 3 out of 9 indigenous colleagues this year who are known to me personally having confirmed to me that they were victimized by this well orchestrated scam.

If one takes this 33% average as a baseline – and extrapolates to factor in the 2,000 plus Indigenous delegates alone that are expected at this ninth annual session of the UNPFII….it does not take a genius to realize that this crime being perpetrated on visitors to this beautiful country could potentially yield US$80,000, and a great deal more if it also in operation at La Guardia and is targeting EVERY new and unwary visitor to New york. How long has this been going on? I know for certain of at-least one year already!

It is my fervent hope that ALL relevant American Law Enforcement Agencies will be alerted to this situation as soon as possible – and that these agencies will give it their immediate and undivided attention; as I have every confidence that they CAN bring a swift solution to this problem.

All for your information and guidance,

Damon Gerard Corrie
visiting Indigenous delegate from Barbados to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ninth Session, 19-29 April 2010; New York City.

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  1. So obliged for this warning. Much thanks, popped up in a search. Cool.



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