Gold Bars and a Dead Man's Ashes Among Odd Items People Left Behind in Cabs

By James Fanelli on May 5, 2014 7:17am 

 Passengers have lost pricey items in the back of cabs in the past year and half, including a $30,000 diamond ring.
Passengers have lost pricey items in the back of cabs in the past year and half, including a $30,000 diamond ring.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY — Oh hack, I forgot my stuff. 

A dog named BooBoo, an urn full of a dead man’s ashes and $20,000 worth of gold bars. These oddities were among the tens of thousands of belongings that taxi passengers left behind in their rides in the past year and a half.

Between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission and 311 system received more than 54,000 reports of passengers losing property in cabs. The items went missing either because they were forgotten, they slipped out of an absentminded passenger’s pocket or the drivers sped off before they could be collected.

A DNAinfo New York review of the reports shows that the misplaced items ranged from the pricey (a $30,000 emerald-cut center stone ring with diamonds) to the priceless (a wedding veil), from fanboy (“Game of Thrones” shot glasses) to fratboy (a beer pong table), and from the life-altering ($15,000 worth of fertility drugs) to the shocking (a TASER gun resembling a flashlight).

Many of the reports offer a fascinating — albeit brief — glimpse into the lives of riders.

“This is a priceless item! I lost a robot in a taxi. It is a matter of my career to get this back by 10 a.m. tomorrow,” a passenger told a 311 operator, according to a report filed on Jan. 24, 2013.

About 2:20 p.m. that day, the passenger had gotten out of a cab to get cash to pay the fare when the driver pulled off with the robot inside a black 17-by-12-inch case. The case also had $350 in cash and checks and a paper about the robot.

“I will lose my job if I don’t get this back,” the panicked passenger told the operator.

Taxi customers can report lost items to 311 by phone call or through its website.

The TLC and 311 will then review a report for searchable information — the taxi medallion number, the pickup and drop-off locations, the time of day, and the hack’s name and license number. Some desperate passengers even describe the physical appearance and demeanor of the driver.

The more information, the better the chance of identifying the right cab.

If a customer provides a medallion number, the TLC will give contact information for the company that owns the medallion. The customers can then call the company, who may be holding the property or can contact the driver.

If an individual owns and operates a cab, then 311 will conduct a three-way call with the customer and the driver.

Without the medallion, the 311 call center will try to identify the cab used by the customer with GPS technology that’s in all taxis.

If the driver and cab can’t be located, the passenger is referred to the local police precinct’s lost-and-found unit.

The report on the missing robot does not indicate whether it was reunited with its owner. But some of the reports submitted in the past year and half have been updated to indicate a happy ending.

One successful reunion involved a passenger who forgot an urn filled with the ashes of a dead uncle in the backseat of a cab on Dec. 13, 2013. The property was found three days later, according to a report.

In some of cases, a taxi driver notices the lost property before a passenger. That’s what happened to BooBoo, a white Maltese dog left in the backseat of a cab by his owner.

The driver contacted the owner, who lived at the Prince George Hotel in the Flatiron District, by calling his building about the missing pooch, according to a report taken on Jan. 29, 2013.

Another happy ending likely saved a marriage.

A 311 operator was able to connect taxi driver Boris Shapiro to a suitor who had left a diamond engagement ring inside a black velvet box on the backseat of his cab on Aug. 19, 2013.

Losing a precious bauble isn’t that unusual. The 311 system took 27 reports of lost engagement rings in the past year and half.

Jewelry accounted for nearly 700 of all the reports taken during that time period. One passenger reported losing a vinyl pouch containing $75,000 worth of jewelry, including two Cartier watches, an antique fob, diamond earrings and pearls, on Aug. 15, 2013,

More than 200 reports involved musical instruments — from a 1968 Hofner bass guitar to a violin made by 18th Century Italian master Johannes Antonius Marchi to two $10,000 saxaphones.

But electronics and phones accounted for most lost reports — nearly 22,000.  Nearly 20,000 reports involved a lost wallet or bag.

The most common hour of the day for an item to go missing was between 11 p.m. and midnight. About 3,980 reports indicated that property was lost during that time.

Thirteen passengers ‘fessed up in their reports to being soused during their cab rides.

“I was very drunk and puked in the back of [the driver’s] car, unfortunately … but did clean it up,” a passenger wrote in an online report about losing a cellphone. “Would sincerely really appreciate your assistance. Happy Holidays!”

The incident occurred on Jan. 1, 2014. That’s not surprising since, out of all the dates in a year, New Year’s Day had the most reports of lost items.

Perhaps the most bizarre incident of a lost item occurred on New Year’s Day in 2013.

A passenger, whose name was redacted from his report, said that a taxi driver had driven him from New York to Virginia. The total fare was $1,000.

But the passenger said he forgot a bag in the taxi’s trunk that had $20,000 in gold bars and cash. The passenger said in the report that the driver would not pick up his phone after driving off with the loot.

“Please help me recover my items and contact me as soon as possible,” the passenger pleaded to a 311 operator.

But there was no silver lining to this tale of lost gold.

“We were unfortunately unable to recover the property, and we referred the case to the [local] precinct,” TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg told DNAinfo.

Fromberg said the driver, who was registered as a hack under a different name, eventually had his license revoked for accruing too many Department of Motor Vehicle points.

The driver could not be reached for comment.

However, the passenger should take heart that losing property in a cab can happen to the most veteran riders — even TLC employees.

One TLC worker submitted an online report that he left a box in the trunk of a yellow cab on Jan. 10, 2014, at 9:35 p.m.

“This was my last day working for TLC and so it contains mementos, a calendar, a plaque, a water bottle and other memorabilia given to me by the TLC,” the passenger wrote.

The report does not indicate whether the item was recovered.

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