Taxi driver secretly topped up fares by €9 in ‘colossal’ scam

Regulator recalled 206 taxi meters, ‘many’ of which were involved, says judge

NTA inspector Liam Kavanagh told Judge Anthony Halpin that earlier this year he received information that a number of taxis were over-charging passengers using the remote device which was linked to some meters. File image: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

NTA inspector Liam Kavanagh told Judge Anthony Halpin that earlier this year he received information that a number of taxis were over-charging passengers using the remote device which was linked to some meters. File image: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

A taxi driver ripped off passengers 280 times by secretly using a remote control to add €9 to fares without their knowledge, a court has heard.

Dublin District Court heard on Monday that the scam unravelled following a tip-off to regulators who subsequently recalled 206 taxi meters with which the remote device was compatible.

Judge Anthony Halpin said the amount of over-charging could have been “colossal”.

Robert Griffin (66) of Maplewood Park, Springfield in Tallaght, was fined €750 after he pleaded guilty to 280 counts of over-charging contrary to the Taxi Regulation Act.

He was accused of using a concealed remote control device 20 times a week from February 4th until May 10th this year.

He was prosecuted following an investigation by the National Transport Authority (NTA) which discovered he covertly topped up the final fare on the taximeters. The increase was added to the final fare on the completion of passengers’ journeys.

NTA inspector Liam Kavanagh told Judge Anthony Halpin that earlier this year he received information that a number of taxis were over-charging passengers using the remote device which was linked to some meters.

A confidential source led him to a taxi rank at Tallaght hospital where the defendant was sitting in his car, he said.

Mr Kavanagh told the court he carried out a routine inspection and found the remote control device in the driver’s door.

“He admitted he had used the remote control to add extras to taxi fares,” the inspector said.

Mr Kavanagh explained that Griffin kept the remote fixed to the driver’s door and as he drove along he pressed it, increasing the fare by €9 per journey. The court heard some other drivers who used the device had kept it between their legs.

“The scam, for want of a better word, was closed down,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“The mind boggles,” remarked Judge Halpin after the facts were presented.

The NTA identified 206 taximeters that were sensitive to the remote, the court was told. They have been recalled for new software.

Not all of the recalled meters were linked to criminal offences but, the inspector added, they were all, “sensitive to this device”.

In pleas for leniency, the defence said Griffin, a grandfather, had heart issues and other health problems which were of grave concern. He did not give evidence or address the court at his hearing on Monday.

He was not currently working “and does not know if he will ever go back” to taxi work, his solicitor told the court.

Griffin offered a full apology and accepted full responsibility, the solicitor submitted.

The judge said one feature that helped the accused in the measurement of the sanction was his co-operation with the NTA. The court did not have evidence that all 206 taxis sensitive to the device were involved in the scam but Judge Halpin said “many of them were”.