Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, known in New York and elsewhere as the “Taxi King,” owned and operated the largest fleet of taxicabs in New York City with his company, Taxi Club Management
A Michael Cohen business partner—Freidman managed Cohen’s own taxi medallion fleet for years—the news Monday that the taxi kingpin had flipped and agreed to work with federal and state prosecutors, may be unwelcome news for Cohen and his longtime client and the man he said he’d “take a bullet” for, Pres. Donald Trump.
Here’s what you need to know about the taxi kingpin, Evgeny “Gene” Freidman:
1.New York ‘Taxi King’ Evgeny ‘Gene’ Freidman Pleads to Far Lesser Crime Monday, Avoiding Decades in Prison. Reports Say Freidman Agreed to Cooperate With State & Federal Investigators & Prosecutors
In the vernacular it’s called turning state’s evidence or witness. Whatever the colloquialism, the so-called “Taxi King” Evgeny “Gene” Freidman agreed to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors rather than face dying in prison.
Freidman owned more than $5 million in taxes and was looking at four separate felony counts of tax fraud as well as a charge of grand larceny. Each charge, upon conviction, would have carried up to 25 years in prison, so if he’d been convicted on all five counts, Freidman was looking at the possibility of 125 years in prison, akin to a death sentence for the 46-year-old.
But Freidman instead walked out of an Albany, New York courtroom Monday after pleading to one count of second-degree criminal tax fraud, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion. Freidman will also have to pay $1 million in restitution in two $500,000 installments in the coming months and sign a note for $4 million he owes New Yorkers, but the taxi kingpin will serve no prison time.
The New York Times reported that Judge Patrick Lynch of Albany County court asked Freidman if he was cognizant of the “nature of the benefit your attorneys have accomplished on your behalf?” Freidman said he was and was grateful.
2.Prosecutors Said Freidman Bilked New Yorkers Out of $5 Million in Taxes Earmarked For Transportation
State law enforcement and taxation officials said Freidman failed to pay $5 million in half-dollar per-cab-ride surcharges that were to be used to help fund the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The New York Attorney General at the time, now disgraced Eric Schneiderman said in 2017 Freidman “built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers – pocketing money that should have instead been invested in our transportation system.”
In a statement Monday, Underwood, Schneiderman’s replacement after he resigned in early May over abuse allegations, said essentially the same thing: “Today, the ‘Taxi King’ admitted that he built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Freidman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system – and he’ll now have to pay back every cent. Our office will continue to hold accountable those who cheat the system.”
The Times reported Monday afternoon that Freidman “quietly agreed” to cooperate with federal and state investigators to avoid prison. The Times reported that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, forwarded information on Cohen to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In April, federal agents armed with warrants searched and seized material in Cohen’s house, hotel room and office. So a Cohen business partner cooperating with federal authorities may be a harbinger. That said, it was reported that Trump attorneys believe Cohen himself will flip.
3.Freidman & Partner Andreea Dumitru Were Charged in 2017 With 5 Felonies. Dumitru Was Also Charged With Immigration Fraud
The original indictment filed against Freidman and his business partner Taxiclub Management chief financial officer Andreea Dumitru included weighty charges of first degree tax fraud.
Freidman, born in Saint Petersburg, Russia immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was a boy, earned a business degree from Skidmore College and law degree (he was just recently disbarred) His taxi business was voluminous with nearly 900 taxi medallions owned but the Taxi & Limousine Commission stripped him of his cab management license a year ago. But he still managed Cohen’s cabs, the Times reported, “even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions.”
Meanwhile, Freidman business partner Dumitru (also known as Andreea Dumitru Parcalaboiu) was arrested in late March by Homeland Security Investigations and was charged with making false statements and representations on more than 180 asylum applications from 2012 to 2017, according to the indictment. Federal agents said she made up bogus stories of persecution, forged signatures and documents, among other untruths in seeking asylum and resident status in the U.S. for 180 immigration clients.
Trump appointee Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York was one of the parties that brought the case against Dumitru.
4.Freidman Did a Month-Long Jail Stint for Defying a Judge, Was Sued for Sexual Harassment, Was Evicted For Failing to Pay Office Rent, Lost Cabs in Bankruptcy & he Blamed Uber For Business Losses
Freidman was locked up in a Cook County (Illinois) jail for almost a month for “defying a judge’s order in a civil case,” the Daily News reported in December of 2017.
The year was, overall, not his best.
Freidman was physically removed from his Manhattan office during the summer of 2017 by marshals after failing to pay more than $75,000 in back rent. The News reported that the landlord claimed Friedman owed him more like $170,000. And, in a bankruptcy case where one creditor, CitiBank said he defaulted on $31 million in loans, Freidman was ordered to surrender scores of taxi medallions. Freidman blamed Uber for the downturn in the taxi business.
But it was the Brooklyn sexual harassment case against him that garnered publicity and buzz in New York. His female assistant claimed he habitually sexually harassed her and the News reported that Freidman threatened the woman’s lawyers via email: “Go ahead (and) cry 2 the judge, she will reprimand me, but I am in (your) f—in he(ad) (a)ND u do not want me there trust u!”
5.Russian-American Freidman Married a Decades-Younger Russian. Theirs Was a Rocky Relationship With Alleged Abuse Including Her Threat to ‘Kill Him With My Bare Hands’
In 2012, Freidman, then 41, married a 21-year-old Russian woman. The couple, who lived in his $4 million Manhattan apartment, have one child. But three years in, the marriage was on the rocks with both charging the other with abuse. In 2015, shortly before she filed for divorce from the taxi kingpin, Sandra Freidman said he’d choked her and shoved her into a wall. He would admit to the shoving but not criminally.
But the New York Post reported that Sandra texted Freidman, “I will fuc*ing kill you with my own bare hands. Watch.”
She was charged with harassment. The Post reported her lawyer said Freidman’s allegations against his ex-wife, to whom he pays $25,000 a month in spousal and child support, were “nothing more than a vindictive attack by a man all too familiar with the criminal justice system against the mother of his child.”