Taxi Cab Confessions? Extortion Scheme Alleged
BY Keaton Gray
Las Vegas strip clubs were allegedly forced to pay kickbacks to cabbies for customers.
Southern California resident Theodore Trapp has filed a class-action lawsuit against more than two dozen strip-club owners and taxi-cab companies in Las Vegas alleging that taxi passengers are routinely diverted to only the strip clubs that agree to pay kickbacks to the taxi companies.
In January 2009, Trapp says his cab driver persuaded him not to visit the strip club he asked to be taken to, saying that another place was better. He later says he learned the cabbie only wanted to take him to the club that paid kickbacks.
The lawsuit suggests that drivers demanded up to $100 for each male customer they dropped off. If a club refused to pay, the suit says a driver would divert the man to a different club that bowed to the fee.
Jay Edelson of KamberEdelson, attorney for the plaintiff, says that although it might seem like the strip clubs are the victims, their involvement is illegal. "The only way people can extort you in this context is if someone else is willing to pay," he says. "The big concern is that it's going to spread to other types of businesses. If it starts spreading to restaurants and hotels and casinos" –which, he claims, it already has– "it's going to change Las Vegas."
Nevada Checker Cab Corporation is one of the defendants in the case. COO Bill Shranko says that while diversion is an ongoing problem in Las Vegas –and a terminable offense– it is a problem with the drivers themselves, not the cab companies.
As for the accusation that the cab companies themselves would be encouraging such a practice, Shranko says, "There is absolutely no motive. It's such a nonsensical lawsuit."
"It would appear that those clubs that want to stop the tipping game are the ones that are filing the suits because the entire story is based on some supposition," Shranko says.