Simon Garber

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Simon Garber
Born1966
Odessa, Ukraine[1]
ResidenceColts Neck, New Jersey[1]
NationalityRussian
Other namesSymon Garber[2][3]
OccupationPresident and CEO, Yellow Cab SLS Jet Management Corp. and Chicago Carriage Cab Co.; Founding Partner, Triglobal Financial Services Inc.; Founder, Moscow Taxi[1][3][4]
Spouse(s)Lina[5]
ChildrenShaun Francis (b. 1993); Jeffrey Lawrence (b. 1995); Enette; Tyler (b. 1989); Shane[2][5][6]

Simon Garber is President and CEO of several taxi cab companies including Yellow Cab SLS Jet Management Corp in New York City and Chicago Carriage Cab Company in Chicago. Garber's companies are estimated to have the highest number of medallions in both Long Island City and Chicago, earning Garber the nickname of "Taxi King". Garber's cab companies have been involved in several scandals including the illegal use of salvaged police cars in the Chicago fleet and overcharging cab drivers in New York for leasing a medallion. In 2009, Garber founded the International Polo Club of Colts Neck near his residence in Colts Neck, New Jersey.

Early life[edit]

Simon Garber was born in 1966 in Odessa, Ukraine. In 1978, Garber immigrated with his parents to New Jersey where his father was a sheet-metal worker and his mother was a nurse. Garber reports that he initially had difficulty with bullying in school, until he joined a group of Lubavitchers who paid for him to attend a Jewish day school and helped him get a summer job at a Jewish camp.[7]

Career[edit]

Garber started driving taxi cabs in New York City at the age of 18 to help pay for college, eventually owning two cabs. Soon he was buying and selling New York medallions (city-regulated individual permits to operate a cab) for a profit.[8] Garber has claimed to be the holder of the most New York medallions, with over 400 to his name, though the state's Attorney General office has stated that he only controls 275.[9][10] In 1992, Garber became friends with Russian politician Vladimir Slutsker while on vacation in Monaco. Through Slutsker, Garber was introduced to several Russian high-ranking officials. Three years later, Slutsker convinced Garber to start the company Moscow Taxi with Garber's brother-in-law Eduard Sheinen. Using his political ties, Garber's business eventually grew to over 2,500 vehicles before a weak Russian economy forced the company to downsize the fleet.[8] While in Russia in 2001, Garber became friends with Patrick Daley, the son of long-time Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley. City officials tightly regulate all aspects of medallions ownership, granting permission to purchase medallions on an individual basis. Within a year of meeting Patrick, Garber quickly acquired over 300 Chicago taxi medallions. Garber also hired Mayor Daley's former chief of staff Gery Chico as a City Hall lobbyist. In 2003, Garber used this political capital to start the Chicago Carriage Cab Company and was granted permission to operate the taxi business in Chicago. Within six years, the Chicago Carriage Cab Company had amassed over 800 medallions, making it the largest taxi company in the city.[9]

Michael Cohen and Garber were associates together with large interests in taxi companies in the United States.[11]

Interests[edit]

Garber enjoys playing polo and has a training area on his 10-acre estate in Colts Neck, New Jersey.[2][6] In 2009, Garber founded the International Polo Club of Colts Neck, which is located in New Jersey.[5] Garber's polo teams are sponsored by his taxi companies, and compete in events worldwide.[3]

Controversy[edit]

Illegal use of salvage vehicles as taxis[edit]

In 2010 city officials in Chicago investigated claims that some of the taxis in the city had been previously categorized as salvage vehicles (typically an insurance designation meaning the vehicles were damaged enough that it would cost more to fix the vehicle than the intrinsic worth of vehicle). Chicago law prohibits operating any vehicle as a taxi that was once deemed a salvage title. Chicago investigators found over 340 vehicles, of which 183 vehicles belonged to Garber's Chicago Carriage Cab Company. Garber had bought salvaged police cars, cleaned the titles of the salvage designation, and then illegally added the vehicles to his fleet. City officials fined Garber and his business associates up to $50,000 per vehicle for a total of $9 million. Garber's 183 salvage vehicles represented approximately 20% of his entire fleet. The prosecutors also estimated that many of the cars had been in service for up to 4 years prior to the investigation. Additionally, the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper investigated 100 of Garber's taxis from other fleets not associated with Chicago and found that 23 had previously been designated as salvage titles. The newspaper stated that it was unknown whether those vehicles were still in circulation.[3] More details of the salvage scheme (and further implication of Garber's involvement) became available through the 2014 trial of one of Garber's business partners, Alexsandr Igolnikov, who was convicted of conspiracy as well as interstate transportation and possession of false automobile titles. Igolnikov was responsible for purchasing the salvage vehicles, repairing them, and then working through corrupt auto brokers to obtain clean titles from Indiana or Illinois. Once the new titles were secured, the salvaged vehicles were painted maroon and entered into Garber's taxi fleet as well as other fleets co-owned by Garber and Igolnikov. Igolnikov would repair and paint the vehicles in a garage owned by Garber.[12]

Improper charging of taxi operators[edit]

On August 12, 2014, the Attorney General along with the Taxi and Limousine Commission for the state of New York announced that Garber's Yellow Cab SLS Jet Management Corp. had agreed to pay approximately $1.6 million in restitution and fines for overcharging cab drivers that leased vehicles from Garber. The taxi drivers who leased through Garber were required to pre-pay to lease the taxi, but did not provide a way for this to be done. If the taxi driver did not pre-pay, the driver was assessed a "late fee" at the time of payment, effectively ensuring that a late fee was included on every lease agreement. A few drivers reported that when they contacted the company for an explanation of the late fees, they were told that the fee was for leasing a hybrid fuel car, which is illegal in the state of New York. The Attorney General estimated that Garber's practice had overcharged approximately 2,000 taxi drivers. As part of the settlement, Garber agreed to pay approximately $1.4 million in restitution to the taxi drivers and $200,000 in fines and fees.[10][13]

Employment of taxi drivers with a history of repeated vehicle citations[edit]

In 2012 the Chicago Tribune found that Garber's Chicago Carriage Cab Company had repeatedly employed cab drivers with a history of repeated moving vehicle violations. One such driver, Rida Lemghari, had been given 46 citations, of which he was found liable in 33 cases. Five of these citations occurred over a three-month time period, during which Lemghari was driving for Garber's company. Additionally, from 2006 to 2008, Lemghari collected 14 total citations while driving in Garber's taxis. Lobbying by the taxi industry enabled the inclusion of language in a repeat-offender law that allowed officials to voluntarily not enforce the law on a case-by-case basis. Unenforced regulation of repeat offenders allowed Garber to continue to employ these drivers, and when the investigation was announced, Garber did not face any sanctions.[14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Polly Mosendz. "Yellow Cab Medallion Owner Hit With $1.6 Million TLC Fine Has a Police Record Including Public Nudity", Betabeat, 19 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Leonard Greene. "Taxi King who cheated cabbies unwinds playing polo with his sons", NY Post, 13 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Tim Novak and Art Golab. "Taxicab king Garber facing millions in fines", Chicago Sun-Times, 29 November 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  4. ^ Melissa Harris. "Chicago taxi owners honking mad about Uber's cab-hailing app, service", 9 December 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Polo's new home", Media Bistro Promotions. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b Drew Grant. "Menace to Society: Full Gallop", New York Observer, 24 July 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Hard driver at the top of city's heated taxi market". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  8. ^ a b Kathy Bergen. "Hard driver at the top of city's heated taxi market", 10 May 2004. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b Tim Novak, Art Golab and Mary Wisniewski. "Russian emigre Garber now king of Chicago taxi empire", Chicago Sun-Times, 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  10. ^ a b "A.G. Schneiderman & TLC Recover Over $1.6 Million In Restitution, Penalties From NYC Taxicab Company That Overcharged Drivers", Press Release from the Attorney General of New York, 12 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  11. ^ Rosalind S., Helderman; Hamburger, Tom; Leonnig, Carol D. (April 12, 2018). "FBI raid sought information on Trump lawyer's bank loans connected to taxi business". The Chicago Tribune from a Washington Post article. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  12. ^ Tim Novak. "Ex-top cab official arrested in vehicle title laundering case", Chicago Sun Times, 29 September 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  13. ^ Bruce Golding. "Taxi company to pay more than $1.6M for ripping off cabbies", NY Post, 12 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  14. ^ Joe Mahr, Cynthia Dizikes and Jason Meisner. "New law will hold companies accountable for repeat-offender cabdrivers", Chicago Tribune, 16 February 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  15. ^ Chris Bentley. "City Targets Cab Companies Who Hire Dangerous Drivers" Archived 2012-02-23 at the Wayback Machine, Chicagoist, 20 February 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014.