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About The Bay: Busting SF Cab Drivers With Illegal Medallions

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Hundreds of lucrative taxi cab medallions in San Francisco could be illegal because owners lied about their qualifications, according to city officials.

While cabbies love to hear the familiar "taxi!" call, they don't want to be hailed down by Eric Richolt.

"I'm Eric Richolt, I'm a taxi investigator with the MTA. I'm trying to get a hold of you because there have been allegations made that you are no longer meeting your full-time driving requirement," said Richolt, leaving a message for a taxi driver.

KCBS' Mike Sugerman Reports:

In San Francisco, you must be a full-time driver to own a medallion, which gives you the right to drive a taxi. Then you can rent it out. But Richolt said medallion abuse is rampant.

"There was a group of individuals that hired a private investigator to dig up all of this information about this guy," he said "They were taxi drivers."

Those drivers didn't want non full-time drivers to get the medallions, which could bring in $40,000 a year when it's rented out. The city of San Francisco wants full-time drivers owning them because it makes the streets safer.

"Some of them are ahead of me (on the waiting list)," said one veteran San Francisco cabbie, who said he personally knows 10 medallions held by people not even in the United States. "I've been driving off-and-on for 40 years. I'm not going to give names but I know many of them have not even been in the country for years."

That includes the person Richolt left a message for. "He's usually in Ethiopia or on the East Coast, so he's very difficult to get a hold of," said Richolt. "When we have, he says he's still driving."

There are a total of 1,500 medallions in San Francisco and estimates are 200 aren't legal. Richolt is the single field inspector to track them down. If nailed, drivers could face penalties of up to $100,000.

Richolt said that he has already busted 25 non-drivers in just the past eight months and he has a dozen active files on his desk right now.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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