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MTA, Port Authority Issue Warning To Those Who Don't Pay Tolls Sent In Mail: 'We're Always Chasing The Money'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Earlier this week, CBS2 told you a story about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority pulling over a man facing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid tolls and fees.

But not ever toll violator is such an egregious evader.

So what are local agencies doing to track down the commuters who are more casually avoiding payment by ignoring the tolls in the mail? CBS2's Jessica Layton explains the consequences.

When the MTA nabbed the person in a car on the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, it was a good get. The guy who owed $58,000 in unpaid tolls and fees was one of the most persistent toll violators the agency has ever seen.

"That was a big fish," said Daniel Decrescenzo, president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

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But if he's a big fish, what about the motorist minnows who don't owe that much, but are still ignoring tolls sent by mail? Don't assume they're off the hook.

"My saying is, We're always chasing the money,'" Decrescenzo said.

Maybe you've seen the posted warning signs, but what really goes into enforcement?

Decrescenzo says if you don't have an E-ZPass, you will get a bill for the toll within 30 days. If you don't pay that, another bill will in 60 days plus a $5 late fee. After 90 days, you're officially a violator.

"Now we can take legal action or enforcement action against you, and we even give you time after that before we submit your plate for suspension to DMV," Decrescenzo said.

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The agency says in the last five years it has impounded 5,000 vehicles and written 31,000 summonses, with a workforce dedicated to looking for both the egregious evaders and the commuter who casually ignores the payment.

"For people who say there's not enough enforcement against those who don't have E-ZPass?" Layton asked.

"Well, if I was a person that paid every day that would be my comment," Decrescenzo said. "It's a very small percentage of the overall customer base that's not paying tolls on time. Single digits."

The agency collected about $1.7 billion in tolls last year.

"What about how much you're not collecting?" Layton asked.

"How much we're not collecting … it's a very small percentage of the overall toll money," Decrescenzo said.

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But the MTA's partner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, admits the unpaid tolls of even a small percentage of hundreds of thousands of driver a day can really add up.

"There are millions of dollars a year that are lost from evaders not paying," said Robin Bramwell-Stewart, deputy director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals. "I think there are just some people who are looking to see what they can get away with."

But Bramwell-Stewart said the Port Authority has been stepping up enforcement.

"Having their cars impounded who are having their registration suspended by the state of New York," Bramwell-Stewart said. "We will send you to collection agencies and in some cases we may end up taking you to court."

Out-of-state drivers won't get off scot-free, either. About 1,000 learned that last year.

"We're gonna tell you you cannot drive on our facilities until you pay your tolls," Decrescenzo said.

It's action you may not have known was even happening, designed to put the brakes on those who think they're beating the system by saving a few bucks.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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