EXCLUSIVE: Taxi tycoon Evgeny Freidman owes $13M in taxes, NYC blasted for doing nothing about it
Embattled taxi king Evgeny Freidman owes more than $13 million in taxes from his cab empire, yet the Taxi & Limousine Commission still lets his cars operate in the city, a group of medallion agents wrote in a letter to the agency last week.
The Committee for Taxi Safety, which represents medallion owners and managers, blasted the TLC in an Aug. 25 letter for sitting idle when it comes to punishing Freidman — who controls more than 900 medallions — for failing to pay his tax bill.
Much of the $13 million in taxes owed — $11 million — is money for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
Riders pay an extra 50 cents on each taxi ride that medallion managers are supposed to hand over to the state to help finance MTA operations.
The TLC “has known about this for years yet they continue to renew his licenses and they continue to allow him to operate, which is a license to steal at this point,” committee President David Beier, a medallion manager, told the Daily News.
In the letter, Beier wrote that “there is no dispute” that Freidman “illegally retained” the MTA surcharge from taxi trips.
“You have sent a message to the taxi industry that the MTA and the TLC may not actually care whether anyone pays the fee,” Beier wrote.
Freidman and attorneys listed in his bankruptcy filing did not return requests for comment.
A rep for the state Department of Taxation and Finance declined to say what is being done to collect on Freidman’s bill, citing privacy rules.
TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said a new rule in September will give the agency the power to hold medallion managers “fully responsible for paying MTA taxes and suspend their agent licenses until they pay outstanding taxes.”
In July 2015, Freidman had to seek bankruptcy protection on 46 medallions operated by 22 of his companies. Citibank had sued him for defaulted loans to finance the pricey medallions, which cost more than $1.6 million each.
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FOR FURTHER READING:
Derailed by Uber, Deposed New York Taxi King Gets Sued in Chicago
Last April, things started to crumble fast for the man who BusinessWeek called “The Taxi King” in a lengthy piece that both lauded Mr. Freidman’s guts and also made fun of his personal quirks (the entire first paragraph was about his “f—ing divorce” and “f—ing haircut”). In a series of articles last April, the Observer chronicled the slow-motion collapse of Mr. Freidman’s over-levered empire.
There was a secret meeting, first reported by the Observer, aimed at derailing Uber. It was closed to the press and attended by Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of New York City Council Transportation Committee, who has been a loyal ally of the traditional taxi business.
Then, on the very day of the secret meeting, the Observer broke the news that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would be suing Mr. Freidman, accusing him of reneging on a 2013 settlement and continuing to shortchange drivers, particularly those who collect fares via credit cards.
So that was last April. But now, things have continued to worsen for the ersatz billionaire. The locations are different (Chicago and Philadelphia) while some of the accusations are the same (shortchanging drivers) and some are freshly outrageous (forgery). In a document obtained exclusively by the Observer, Mr. Evgeny’s taxi partners in Chicago and Philadelphia claim he stole from them, using privileged legal accounts; claimed his parents, girlfriend and children are cab drivers; and hid money from the government by using these businesses.
First was a suit filed by Everett Abitbol in Philadelphia on April 7 but not covered until now. Mr. Freidman’s partners claim their shared business is being bled dry by Mr. Freidman, and one paragraph reads more like The New York Post than a formal court document: “Freidman’s desperation is likely exacerbated by his high-profile divorce which is regularly reported in New York City newspapers. Allegations of cocaine use and domestic abuse (culminating in a guilty plea to shoving his estranged wife into a wall) have been widely reported as Freidman struggles to pay $31,000 per month in child support.”
More troubling for Mr. Freidman is the Chicago lawsuit. In a memo filed in Cook County on May 4, plaintiffs Savas Tsitiridis of Dispatch Taxi Management LLC and Pure Taxi Media LLC accuse Mr. Freidman of “enriching himself and depriving the entities of operating capital needed to, inter alia, pay vendors and employees.”