One Lucky Guy: From Taxi King to Probation

taxi cabHe helped topple presidential fixer Michael Cohen, he is accused of bringing down the New York taxi medallion system and he pled guilty to a criminal tax charge.  He got probation. Evgeny Freidman is a lucky guy.


An attorney, Mr. Freidman is 48-year old immigrant from Russia who rolled into a business established by his father buying taxi licenses called medallions in New York City.  Mr. Freidman saw greater profit in the business and aggressively began buying up the medallions and driving their cost skywards.  His efforts created a bubble in the medallion business that drove low income taxi drivers to take on staggering debt trying to purchase a medallion through long term payment plans.


Accumulating vast wealth, Mr. Freidman also managed taxi medallions owned by Mr. Cohen and other wealthy New Yorkers, and he and Mr. Cohen became friends.  Accumulating or managing about 900 of the 13,587 medallions available in New York City, Mr. Freidman divested some of his assets into commercial and residential properties and business ventures.  He rubbed elbows with the political elite even as his empire began to fall.


By 2016, the state of New York had ordered him to pay $1.5 million for cheating his drivers.  The same year he was on the losing side of a court action that required him to pay creditors after it was determined he had shifted some $60 million into offshore tax havens to avoid taxes and detection. By 2017, a civil disagreement with the state about taxes owed turned into a five-count criminal tax charge.  Conviction on one charge could lead to a sentence of 25 years in prison.


Things were looking pretty ugly for Mr. Freidman when prosecutors became interested in Mr. Cohen.  Through an agreement to provide information concerning the finances and activities of Mr. Cohen, Mr. Freidman was able to plead guilty to one charge of tax fraud, pay a $1 million fine, agree to give the state authority to collect another $4 million in the future, and serve five years of probation.


Mr. Freidman supplied prosecutors with evidence for tax evasion charges filed against Mr. Cohen, including two incidents totaling almost $2 million in unreported income.


Carrying approximately $400 million in debt, Mr. Freidman is disbarred and prohibited from working within the taxi-industry in New York.


Mr. Freidman lived a fabulous lifestyle, committed a number of tax crimes, sped up the demise of the New York taxi system and afflicted despair on taxi drivers, some of whom committed suicide over medallion debt—and he only got probation.


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