SF Cab Company Fights Fines, Organized Crime Accusations

Arrow Checker denies mob ties, sues city.

By Chris Roberts
|  Saturday, May 12, 2012  |  Updated 7:31 AM PDT
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SF Cab Company Fights Organized Crime Claims

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Taxis are leaving a trail of trouble in San Francisco.

Gratchia Makarian is not in the Russian mob. He's not even Russian.

The Armenian-born owner of Arrow Checker, one of San Francisco's taxi companies, has sued the city, saying that he's been defamed. But city officials note that his company has had "hordes and hordes" of problems, from poor disability access for customers to gouging drivers for taking credit card fares, according to a Bay Citizen investigation.

Makarian responded to the controversy by filing suit against the city, in a legal action that names top city officials, according to the Bay Citizen. But this comes after taxi enforcement found Arrow Checker guilty of misdeeds of its own, including charging drivers more than the $100 allowed per shift, refusing to cash them out after their shifts, or sending them to a mysterious "Russian Lady," in whose trailer drivers were cashed out for a 10 percent fee, according to the Bay Citizen.

A $16.2 million fine was levied against the company in 2011, but that was reduced to $6,000, the Bay Citizen reported.

Part of the problem is shoddy enforcement and investigation, according to taxi experts. Only four full-time investigators with "rulebooks and flashlights" are tasked with uncovering wrongdoing among the city's 1,500 licensed taxi drivers.

That doesn't include the driving services that operate illegally without permits.

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