A serial taxi cheat, who, over two years, deprived taxi drivers of $871.65 in fares, was yesterday fined $8,000 and ordered to pay compensation after pleading guilty to 10 counts of fare evasion.
From January 2014 to October last year, Tan Mei Shan, 29, cheated 15 cabbies of fares ranging from $25.10 to $105.60.
Her modus operandi was simple: Upon reaching her destination, she would ask the driver to wait for her while she ran an errand. To reassure the drivers, she would leave her mobile number. But when they called, she would say she was returning but would then become uncontactable. In some instances, she contacted the drivers and promised to transfer the fare at a later date, but she never did.
In court yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) prosecutor asked for a compensation order and a deterrent sentence to be meted out.
"From the number of offences, we see this is not a one-off incident," he said. "These drivers' livelihoods depend on the taxi fare collected, and it is a hardship not only on drivers, but also on their families."
Tan chalked up her biggest fare on Sept 17 last year when she boarded a cab in Woodlands and asked to be taken to Tiong Bahru Plaza. Upon reaching Tiong Bahru, she then asked the driver to wait for her. Tan returned after 15 minutes and asked to make stops in Yishun Street 11, Serangoon North Avenue 1 and Admiralty MRT station, before heading to Woodlands.
While waiting at a carpark near Admiralty station, the cabby, Mr Chong Chee Koon, received a call from Tan saying she did not have enough money to pay the $105.60 fare and would transfer it to him in three days. However, when he contacted Tan on Sept 19 and Sept 20, she did not respond. The cases were referred to LTA for investigation.
During mitigation, Tan said she was suffering from depression and asked for leniency. If she is unable to pay, she will serve 40 days' jail for the fine and 10 days' jail for the compensation order.
LTA said it sees about 150 cab fare evasion cases a month and is able to recover fares in about half of them.
Higher penalties to deter cab fare evasion were introduced in May last year. Those found guilty face a fine of $1,000 for a first offence, and a $2,000 fine and six months' jail for subsequent offences.