Port Authority police have charged more truck drivers with toll evasion at the George Washington Bridge so far this year than they did all of last year, as the agency continues what officials with the agency have described as a "crackdown," according to authorities.
The number of drivers charged reached 104 on Sunday morning, the same day the Port Authority’s latest round of toll hikes went into effect, and climbed yet again Monday, authorities said.
“Cracking down on toll evasion has been a top priority for the agency this year, and the number of arrests we have made this year are clear evidence that our efforts have been a success,” said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.
The agency made 83 arrests in connection with alleged toll evasion during all of 2011, he said, with the latest three incidents occurring Saturday, Sunday and Monday and bringing the 2012 total to 105 nearly a month before the end of the year.
At 10:02 a.m. Saturday, Port Authority Police Officer Steven Pisciotta was on “routine patrol” at the main toll plaza of the GWB, when he saw a 2011 BMW M13 “without license plates” travel through a toll lane, Coleman said.
“A subsequent investigation found that just prior to the toll plaza, the driver had pulled to the side of the road and removed his license plates,” Coleman said. “The plates were registered in Delaware and found in the front passenger seat of the car.”
Bratislav Rozenfeld, 27, of New York City was charged with theft of services and tampering with government records, authorities said.
At 9:31 a.m. Sunday, Police Officer Michael Brennan of the Port Authority caught a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer with “defaced” plates, both on the front and rear, also at the bridge’s main toll plaza.
The first three characters on the front plate had allegedly been covered in what Coleman described as “green grease,” and the same substance allegedly obscured the third and fourth characters of the rear plate.
“Upon further investigation, it was found that the tractor was stolen from Columbia, South Carolina,” Coleman said.
Charles Willie Sherlls, 58, of Florence, S.C. was charged with theft of services and receiving stolen property. A passenger in the truck, Michael Nero, 45, of Lake City, S.C. was also charged with receiving stolen property and tampering with public records, authorities said.
On Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the same location, Port Authority Police Officer Ryan Ust spotted an International tractor-trailer with no front license plate and grease allegedly obscuring the rear plate, according to Coleman.
Ust charged Joel Cortes, 28, of Worcester, Mass. with theft of services and tampering with public records.
Coleman couldn’t immediately provide details on whether most of the drivers charged this year have pleaded guilty or paid fines, but he did say, “We haven’t seen many repeat offenders at the GWB.”