Conflict between two prominent Philadelphia taxi medallion owners has caused more than 100 drivers to go without work for weeks - some for months - according to drivers' accounts.
Evgeny Freidman and Everett Abitbol own Freedom Taxi Association L.L.C., but a pending lawsuit seeks to change that. In a complaint filed in Common Pleas Court in April, Abitbol asked to dissolve the company, and accused Freidman of removing business funds to pay personal debts and setting up ghost accounts to send money to family members, among other claims.
Freidman and his lawyer did not respond to phone calls and text message requests for comment.
In a June 3 email obtained by the Inquirer, Freidman, a major owner of New York City taxis, told Abitbol to immediately stop managing the 91 medallions owned by Freidman and four others.
Abitbol informed the Philadelphia Parking Authority's Taxicab and Limousine Enforcement Division of the notice on June 4, the authority's general counsel, Dennis Weldon, said.
According to 28 affidavits, around the time Freidman ended his agreement with Abitbol, the drivers say they were not paid a total of $6,219 in credit card transactions in their cabs.
The largest single amount claimed was $500.
Weldon said he had never heard of a company stopping work like this.
Munir Hussein, 33, of Brookhaven, claimed in an affidavit that he is owed $244.04 for credit card fares from June 3 and 4, a small amount compared with the two weeks of revenue he missed when his car was taken away.
Hussein said he had a 24-hour lease with Freedom to let him choose his own hours, which he values as a father of five children, ranging from 3 months to 13 years.
Hussein said he always keeps his receipts before going to pick up his balance from the Freedom garage, which is how he knew his take was lower than it should have been.
He said he worked for about 12 hours on both days and then woke up to a call from Freedom around 8 a.m. Sunday telling him to bring in his car as soon as possible.
On June 3, drivers reported to the Freedom office that their meters and credit card terminals had logged off around 5 or 6 p.m., Abitbol said.
"It was sporadic. It was one or two drivers that called, then it was 20 or 30 drivers that called," he added.
Drivers could not refuse to accept credit card payments during that time, or they would risk facing a recommended $350 fine from the taxi division, Weldon said.
Freedom was sent into a frenzy over the weekend, trying to employ the same number of drivers with half the medallions.
Abitbol said there are still 45 to 50 drivers displaced, but some have taken the time off as an excuse to go on vacation or visit family abroad.
Weldon said the Parking Authority had sent letters to the 91 medallion owners asking that they put the medallions back into service or go on voluntary suspension. Weldon said that these requests had been ignored and that the agency had issued medallion owners citations for interruption of service.