A TAXI driver scammed passengers 270 times over a six-month period by secretly using a remote control to add €9 to fares, a court has heard.
It was the second case to come before Dublin District Court since the National Transport Authority (NTA) launched an investigation into widespread use of a remote device to rip off unsuspecting taxi passengers.
Raymond Pidgeon, 63, from Kilakee Close, Greenpark, Walkinstown, Dublin 12, pleaded guilty today to over-charging customers 270 times contrary to the Taxi Regulation Act.
He was accused of using a concealed remote control device to increase fares on his meter, which he did 15 times a week from February 1 until June 12 last year.
As a result of mitigating factors, he was handed a nominal fine of €200 and ordered to pay €400 in prosecution costs. “This fine does not reflect the gravity of the offences,” Judge Anthony Halpin told the driver.
NTA inspector Liam Kavanagh told the court he investigated claims some taxis were systematically over-charging passengers by covertly using a remote device with certain meters.
Following a customer complaint, Pidgeon had been interviewed by the NTA in mid-June about a €20 over-charge on a fare. The inspector became suspicious by Pidgeon’s explanation and €9 could not be accounted for, the court heard.
He learned the taxi driver used an Aguila meter, the type that was being used with the remote control.
He cautioned Pidgeon again and told him he was also investigating the use of remote devices to over-charge taxi passengers.
“At that point he broke down and admitted he was one of the drivers,” the NTA inspector said. He had done it for eight months but could only be charged for the offences committed over the latest six-month period.
As a result of the NTA investigation, 206 taxi meters were recalled and had to be recalibrated.
Mr Pidgeon, who had no prior convictions, was co-operative. He represented himself at the hearing and apologised in court.
Prosecuting solicitor Jason Teahan said the NTA was aware the accused had a severely ill wife.
Judge Halpin asked the accused what had motivated him. Pidgeon replied that he had money worries and his wife had been in hospital.
Asked how he obtained the remote device, he said, “I bought it off a person”.
The NTA inspector said a lot of the 206 taxi meters involved had been based at Dublin Airport. «Taxi men tend to talk and unfortunately Mr Pidgeon listened,» he added.
The offence can result in a fine of up to €4,000.
Judge Halpin noted his guilty plea and co-operation with the NTA.
He praised the NTA inspector and noted he issues which had affected Pidgeon.
He had to record a conviction because of the seriousness of the offence, he said.
In November, the first prosecution arising from the same investigation came before the court and resulted in a fine of €750 being imposed on another driver who had used the device to over-charge passengers by €9 on 280 occasions.