We've all been there: stuck in line, waiting to fork over a toll or parking fee, thinking to ourselves, "Couldn't I zip out of here, while the crossing arm is closing behind the person ahead of me? Couldn't I skip paying, just this once?"
It wouldn't work all the time, of course. If there's a human to be paid, he or she would plainly see our tailgating trick and report us before we were out of sight. But as one New York City taxi driver discovered, there are other opportunities to scam the system, thanks to auto-pay tolls.
The driver in question is Rodolfo Sanchez of Long Island City, Queens. When crossing the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge that connects Queens to the Bronx and Manhattan, Sanchez regularly tailgated the vehicle ahead of him in the E-Z Pass lane, racing through before the barrier came down.
To avoid suspicion, Sanchez had an E-Z Pass device in his own cab, but it had expired in 2011. Records from the defunct device show that between August 4, 2012 and March 28, 2014, Sanchez sneaked across the RFK some 3,017 times, dodging $28,242.50 in tolls.
Sanchez might've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's eagle-eyed Joseph Gugliero. Last week, Gugliero discovered Sanchez's E-Z Pass, which was reported lost years ago.
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Sanchez says that he found the device in a cab he drove in 2010. Although he knew there were no funds in the associated E-Z Pass account, he says that he began using it to zip through E-Z Pass lanes because he needed money for his family.
On Thursday, Sanchez was charged with third-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.