Wasim Khalid Cheema may have masterminded the largest rip-off in TLC history
A crooked cabbie stole an estimated $40,000 by overcharging passengers in what appears to be the city’s biggest rider rip-off ever, authorities said Monday.
Wasim Khalid Cheema manipulated the meter in his yellow cab to inflate fares paid by unsuspecting passengers, authorities said.
A Taxi and Limousine Commission review of trip data concluded Cheema ripped off 574 riders in a single month, officials said.
Officials are still trying to determine the full scope of Cheema’s alleged thievery, which an administrative law judge called “reprehensible.”
“Members of the riding public must be able to trust that taxicab drivers will not only transport them safely, but they will be honest in their dealings with them,” Law Judge Alessandra Zorgniotti wrote in a decision concluding Cheema repeatedly pilfered from passengers.
Cheema, 22, of Brooklyn, skipped a January hearing and couldn’t be reached Monday.
TLC officials said they were unaware of any other cabbie ripping off so many passengers.
Asked if Cheema could face criminal prosecution a TLC spokesman called it “an active case” and said no further details were available.
Cabbies manually select the appropriate rate of fare by pushing a button on the meter – choosing from rates for trips within the city, trips to Newark and Kennedy airports, and for jaunts across the Nassau and Westchester borders.
Cheema switched to the out-of-city rate on trips that stayed within city limits, according to the judge’s decision.
A TLC analysis of six months of trip data estimates Cheema stole about $40,000 during that stretch.
Officials couldn’t say when Cheema, a cabbie since May 2007, started inflating fares.
A suspicious passenger complained about the meter in Cheema’s cab increasing “very rapidly” during a July trip from Manhattan to Woodside, Queens, according to the decision. That prompted the TLC investigation.
TLC officials said new technology required for cabs, including GPS, enabled the authority to develop a case against Cheema. The agency has moved to yank his hack license.