By Ben Fractenberg and Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN — Authorities said 59 cab drivers were charged with systematically ripping off passengers by running the meter at an out-of-town rate, according to an announcement Wednesday.
The drivers arrested Wednesday were considered the worst offenders in the citywide price-gouging scam, which is believed to encompass about 600 drivers.
Some of the drivers were arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon while others were still waiting for their court appearances.
Most of the drivers were released without bail on their own recognizance.
Chaudry Nazir, 24, is considered the ninth worst offender, having overcharged 2,512 passengers over $11,200.
Nazir, a college student, told reporters he did not expect to be arrested when he was called to the DA's office this morning.
He attributed the over charges to the "very confusing" changes made when credit card machines were installed in cabs.
Of those arrested so far, 45 were charged with scheme to defraud, a penal law felony. The others face misdemeanor larceny charges, Vance and Department of Investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn announced.
"Although the overcharged amount for each trip may only have been a few dollars, this kind of aggressive scamming sends ripples of mistrust through our city," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said at a press conference earlier.
Six cabbies were found guilty in August of ripping off riders. They were each fined $850 and had their licenses revoked.
The worst offender was Santiago Rossi, of Hollis, N.Y., who allegedly overcharged 5,127 riders out of more than $11,000 between 2008 and 2010, according to prosecutors.