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2 Drivers Caught in New Crackdown on Toll Cheats

September 11, 2008

Two truck drivers were caught evading tolls after concealing their license plates while driving by the E-ZPass lane cameras in Staten Island, N.Y., according to the Staten Island Advance.

Port Authority Police Officer Edward Benenati pulled over both drivers, a little over four hours apart.

According to police, Orlando Payano of Queens was driving a tractor-trailer for Y&R Trucking, when Benenati witnessed the truck's front license plate disappear as the truck approached the toll plaza. The officer found a spring-activated hinge attached to the plate and connected to a cable running under the truck, threaded through its steering column. The cable was attached to the truck's cigarette lighter knob, which served as the mechanism to flip the plate back and forth. The truck's rear license plate was bent at the corner to obscure some of the numbers.

Just hours later, a second driver, Carlos Brazao of Newark, stopped his car-carrier truck before the toll plaza to manually flip his license plate up to cover the number before passing through the cameras. After going through, he stopped on the other side before getting onto the highway to flip the plate back down. Brazao was not charged after he agreed to pay back tolls and fees. Upon further investigation, police determined Brazao's truck had accumulated $1,947 in unpaid tolls due to the Port Authority, and another $58 in tolls unpaid to the New York State Thruway Authority.

Overall, drivers beat the system for an estimated $4.5 million a year, by avoiding cameras at Port Authority bridge and tunnel toll plazas or just driving through without an E-ZPass tag.

But the agency's police department is staging a new crackdown to catch more discreet toll cheats, by reviewing camera footage to find other drivers who don't pay up, according to the Staten Island Advance.


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