Investigators: Taxi king, already fined by TLC, wins court battle

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Jim Hoffer investigates. (WABC)

UPDATE JUNE 15: Taxi king Gene Freidman won a victory in court Monday, even if only temporarily. The Appellate Court granted Freidman a stay from having 46 of his taxi medallions seized by the bank. Last Friday, a lower court Judge had given CitiBank the go-ahead to seize Freidman's medallions to collect on $31 million in debt. The judge said, "The bank and I have exercised a great deal of patience. The value of medallions is sinking like a rock, and to delay seizure further would jeopardize the bank's collateral."

Through a spokesman, Freidman released a statement on Monday's appellate decision that blocks the bank from seizing his taxis:

"As self-made New Yorker that bleeds yellow, I believe in justice and the American way. Having built my business with sweat and tears, I am very pleased with today's court ruling, and elated that I will tell 200 drivers will continue to be employed without any interruption, and continue to provide for their families. That is the big picture. In this time of overwhelming change, there must be more government oversight of the taxi industry. I will continue to oversee the largest medallion fleet in the United States and maintain that New York is the gold standard in taxis. New York must stand up to the hostile takeover being attempted by a Mafia-like Silicon Valley, in conjunction with predator banks."

Freidman, along with other taxi owners, has seen the value of medallions plunge with the sudden, meteoric rise in the popularity of Uber and Lyft taxi competitors. Just two weeks ago, Eyewitness News reported exclusively that Freidman had been fined $98,000 by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for ignoring more than 1,000 summonses for $6 million in unpaid taxes, something he denies.

ORIGINAL STORY JUNE 12:

Just a couple of years ago, Gene Freidman was on top of the world, having amassed more taxi medallions than anyone in New York. But then came new competition that cut deep into the taxi tycoon's profits.

He hasn't lost his swagger, but he may soon lose some of his taxi empire.

Taxi king Gene Freidman came to court Friday hoping to get the judge to change his mind about allowing the bank to seize 46 of his medallions over unpaid loans. But the judge had had enough, saying, "The bank and I have exercised a great deal of patience. The value of medallions is sinking like a rock, and to delay seizure further would jeopardize the bank's collateral."

The judge gave CitiBank the go-ahead to seize the medallions to collect $31 million in overdue debt.

The usually outspoken Freidman left court with little to say, at least to us.
Through a spokesman, Freidman released a statement saying he "is adamant that no one is taking his medallions," adding that, "This ruling is an attack on the entire taxi industry, and if the decision is allowed to go forth, will create a crisis among taxi owners."

Freidman, along with other taxi owners, has seen the value of medallions plunge with the sudden, meteoric rise in the popularity of Uber and Lyft taxi competitors. Just two weeks ago, Eyewitness News reported exclusively that Freidman had been fined $98,000 by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for ignoring more than 1,000 summonses for $6 million in unpaid taxes, something he denies.

"You should be ashamed, you have not done your homework," he said. "This is the second time ABC has not done its homework."

Now, he's fighting to keep a chunk of his 900-medallion taxi empire from being taken away.

Attorneys for Freidman filed an emergency stay with the Appellate Court, but a ruling on that may not come until Monday. So technically, the bank could seize the medallions. But that has not yet happened, and it is unlikely the Sheriff's Department would move on that over the weekend.

But it remains quite a turnaround from when Freidman was buying any medallion he could get his hands on.
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newsinvestigationinvestigatorstaxitaxesNew York City
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