BOSTON, Feb. 12, 2013—Five Massport employees were arrested today for allegedly taking bribes from taxi drivers in exchange for preferential – and illegal – treatment at Logan Airport’s cab stands, officials announced today.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, and Massport CEO and Executive Director Thomas P. Glynn announced the arrests of:
1. KENNETH CLEMENT (D.O.B. 1/24/46) of Attleboro,
2. MICHAEL GARVEY (D.O.B. 5/18/61) of Melrose,
3. VADIM MKRTYCHEV (D.O.B. 2/20/75) of West Roxbury,
4. JAMES MULREY (D.O.B. 10/27/67) of Canton, and
5. DONALD POTTS (D.O.B. 7/24/65) of Medford.
All five defendants are employed as Ground Transportation Unit agents, known colloquially as “cab starters.” They are each charged with accepting a corrupt gift under Chapter 268A, Section 2, of the Massachusetts General Laws. Additional defendants could be charged in the weeks ahead, authorities said.
State Police assigned to the Logan Airport barracks arrested all five defendants on warrants obtained amid a lengthy 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.
“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 P. Alben, Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police. “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 F. Conley said. “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 P. Glynn, CEO and Executive Director of Massport. “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, obtain 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. 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.
Drivers who fail to report to the Taxi Pool and instead report directly to a cab stand are known as “jumpers.” The Ground Transportation Unit agents, or “starters,” who man the cab stands are supposed to issue violations to drivers who undertake this practice. The defendants, in contrast, allegedly took bribes from drivers in exchange for allowing them to skip the wait in the Taxi Pool. Some “jumpers” who spoke candidly 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. Moreover, the “starters” would allegedly steer higher-priced fares, such as those heading beyond Route 128, to “jumpers” who bribed them more.
In a period between November 2012 and January 2013, the defendants received more than $1000 in alleged bribe money as part of the investigation. In general, they allegedly took $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.
The success of State Police investigators in this case came primarily as a result of cooperating witness statements and the use of recording devices during interactions with the defendants. Pursuant to Massachusetts law regarding one-party consent recordings, State Police went before Suffolk Superior Court judges every two weeks to apprise the court of their progress in the investigation and obtain permission to continue using the recording devices.
Four defendants were arrested at the airport this afternoon; a fifth was arrested at his home. All five are expected to be arraigned tomorrow in East Boston District Court.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.