[an error occurred while processing this directive]

I-Team Special Report: Fare Warning

Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Fare Warning story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - When you get into a taxi cab, do you know who is behind the wheel and if that person could be a criminal.

After a Newschannel 3 exclusive story where we showed you a Kalamazoo taxi cab driver arrested for raping a woman in his taxi, the I-Team went to work, investigating who these drivers are that we trust to take us around town.

What we found is a shockingly unregulated industry with no accountability or oversight.

The investigation into Kalamazoo taxi cabs turned up issues with safety and oversight, along with questions about the cost for a ride, which seems to change based on which taxi or driver picks you up.

They cruise around Kalamazoo day and night: zebra stripped pink limousines, minivans, and a few of the traditional variety.

And the colorful and assorted looks on the outside give some clue into what's going on inside the taxi business in Kalamazoo.

"The city of Kalamazoo has no regulations," said Scott Smith, of Elite Transportation.

Smith started Elite Transportation two years ago in Kalmazoo, and says he couldn't believe what taxi companies get away with.

He runs background checks on all his drivers, although no one requires he do it.

That became clear last month, when Godspeed Transportation driver Robert Prescott was arrested for raping a woman in his taxi.

He has a long criminal past, including a felony assault of a police officer. The alleged victim in the case told us she blamed the taxi company.

"If they would have done their due diligence on checking into him, this would have never happened to me," she told Newschannel 3. "I haven't slept a full night since it happened. This is something that I have to deal with everyday."

The owner of Godspeed told us he didn't think a background check was important.

Now, the I-Team found one Timothy Scott Merill on the Michigan sex offender registry for criminal sexual conduct with someone under 13. And he's a taxi driver for Bigg Baby taxi service.

The owner of Bigg Baby admitted to us he knows all about Merill's past, but says "it was a mistake 20 years ago. There's no reason not to give him a chance."

The I-Team wanted to check drivers to see if there are other sex offenders, but we found there is no state or local agency that keeps a list of drivers. So, we went to several taxi companies to ask for driver names; but no one would give us those.

We found Kalamazoo does have regulations on the books for taxi drivers which include background checks, but a company can avoid those regulations by simply claiming they are a limousine service.

Then they fall under the less stringent state guidelines for limos.

"I've taken cabs to the airport, sometimes it cost me ten dollars, sometimes it cost me 25 dollars," said Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney. "I go the same distance, I say to the guy, he's says this is a limousine; I said I just called a cab."

Along with the safety issues, Cooney says he questions the lack of any fixed prices and wants to see changes in the taxi rules.

But city leaders tell us right now the state law is keeping them from getting involved to change a system that even some of the taxi companies say is all over the road.

"It would benefit everybody, we would get rid of the fly by night taxis that i think has to be done in this town," Smith said.

Even though there are more strict taxi regulations in Grand Rapids and Battle Creek, the problem of companies skirting regulation as limos is happening statewide.

The I-Team took the issue to state leaders and is already getting action.
comments powered by Disqus
advertisement

What do you want to see?

If you have a story idea for the I-Team, you can contact us using the form below or by calling 269-388-4612.
Please re-enter the code shown in the image below.

Business News

Last Update on October 21, 2014 17:19 GMT

HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homes sold in September at their fastest clip this year, yet the housing market has yet to fully shake off a slowdown that began in the middle of 2013.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Still, the sales rate has dropped 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.

Investors have retreated from the market over the past year. Their departures are being offset by existing homeowners who are upgrading to more expensive properties or downsizing after having raised their children.

Rising prices through much of 2013, weak income growth and tighter credit standards have priced out many would-be buyers. Median home prices rose 5.6 percent over the past 12 months to $209,700.

STAPLES-POSSIBLE BREACH

NEW YORK (AP) -- Staples is looking into a potential credit card data breach and has been in touch with law enforcement officials about the issue.

The office supplies retailer said Tuesday that if it turns up any data discrepancies during its investigation, customers won't be responsible for fraudulent activity on their credit cards as long as it is reported in a timely manner.

"We take the protection of customer information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation," spokesman Mark Cautela said in a statement.

Earlier this month Sears Holdings Corp. reported a breach at its Kmart stores that started last month, saying some customers' credit and debit cards may have been compromised. Other breaches have occurred at retailers including Target Corp., Supervalu Inc. and Home Depot Inc..

Shares of Staples Inc., based in Framingham, Massachusetts, slipped 3 cents to $12.27 in midday trading. Its shares have fallen 23 percent over the past year.

EARNINGS

UNDATED (AP) -- Coca-Cola and McDonald's are reporting declining profits.

Coke says its third-quarter net income was $2.11 billion, down 14 percent as beverage volume rose 1 percent, thanks to an increase in non-carbonated drinks. The world's biggest beverage maker also announced a new plan that it said will reduce costs by $3 billion a year by 2019. For this year, the company said it expects earnings per share to miss its long-term target.

McDonald's saw customer traffic fall around the world. Sales took a big hit in Asia, where a major supplier was shown on TV repackaging expired beef. In the U.S., McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers amid shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome.

For the quarter, revenue declined to just under $7 billion, falling short of Wall Street expectations.

Also reporting results this morning, Verizon Communications reported lower net income but higher revenue in its third quarter, helped by strong wireless subscriber growth and demand for its FiOS Internet services.

Higher cigarette prices helped cigarette maker Reynolds American's net income rise 2.2 percent in its third quarter.

MORTGAGE RISK RULES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New U.S. rules aimed at getting banks to take on more of the risk when they package and sell mortgage securities are being relaxed with an eye to spurring broader home lending.

Federal regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20 percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books.

The long-delayed final rules unveiled Tuesday by six federal agencies include the less stringent condition that borrowers not carry excessive debt relative to their income.

The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the rules.

The rules, proposed in stricter form in 2011, were mandated by the overhaul law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 31 U.S. states in September, including many currently embroiled in tough political campaigns. The report is the final data on state unemployment before the midterm elections Nov. 4.

The Labor Department says that unemployment rates rose in 8 states and were unchanged in 11 states. That is the smallest number of states to see an increase since April.

Employers added jobs in 39 states and cut jobs in 10. South Dakota's job count changed little.

Colorado and Kentucky, two states with hard-fought Senate campaigns, experienced the biggest declines in unemployment. Colorado's fell to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent, and Kentucky's rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7.1 percent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate declined to 5.9 percent in September, from 6.1 percent the previous month.

NAPROXEN RECALL

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina company is recalling nearly 12,000 boxes of pain relief tablets sold at Dollar Tree stores because some cartons contain a different medication that could cause allergic reactions.

Greensboro-based Contract Packaging Resources Inc. says it mistakenly placed bottles of ibuprofen inside boxes sold at Dollar Tree stores nationwide as Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets.

Some consumers buy naproxen sodium pain relievers because of allergies to ibuprofen. The packaging company says reactions that can include hives or life-threatening respiratory problems, but it hasn't received any reports of adverse reactions.

Consumers who bought 15-count boxes of 220mg Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets may return them to the store of purchase or call 336-252-3422.

CVS HEALTH-TOBACCO

CVS develops tobacco-free prescription network

First, CVS Health pulled tobacco from its store shelves. Now, it plans to make some customers think twice about filling prescriptions at other stores that still sell smokes.

The nation's second-largest drugstore chain is developing a new tobacco-free pharmacy network for clients of its Caremark pharmacy benefits management business.

The network would slap an extra co-payment on patients who fill their prescriptions at stores that still sell tobacco. That payment won't apply to prescriptions filled in the tobacco-free network, which would include CVS and Target locations nationally, as well as other pharmacies that abstain. Target Corp. gave up tobacco sales in 1996.

CVS national rivals Walgreen Co. and Rite Aid Corp. still sell tobacco.

The tobacco-free network will only be used by the pharmacy-benefit management customers that choose it.

KIMBERLY-CLARK-JOB CUTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Kimberly-Clark plans to eliminate up to 1,300 jobs as part of restructuring efforts aimed at reducing costs and making its business more efficient.

The consumer products company has 58,000 workers worldwide, according to its website.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. said Tuesday that it anticipates restructuring costs between $130 million and $160 million, after taxes. The company -- whose brands include Kleenex and Huggies -- foresees between $120 million and $140 million in savings by the end of 2017.

The restructuring is expected to be completed by 2016's end.

Kimberly-Clark also cut its 2014 adjusted profit forecast to account for the spinoff of its health care business. The Dallas company now expects an adjusted profit between $5.93 and $6.03 per share, down from its prior range of $6 to $6.15 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect $6.06 per share.

advertisement