Guilty plea in taxi scheme Sun-Times exposed

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SHARE Guilty plea in taxi scheme Sun-Times exposed

A Russian immigrant who helped operate Chicago’s biggest cab company — Chicago Carriage Cab — admitted Thursday he laundered the title of a wrecked vehicle so he could illegally operate in the city, a scheme the Chicago Sun-Times exposed five years ago.

Alexander Igolnikov, 68, of Northbrook, faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to a single count of securities fraud when he is sentenced Nov. 19 by U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang.

Igolnikov admitted he bought a wrecked vehicle from an online auction and had others submit an affidavit lying about the vehicle’s accident history to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The Indiana agency then issued a clean title, according to the plea agreement his attorney Edward Genson reached with U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon.

Alexander Igolnikov, 67, of Northbrook, leaving the Dirksen Federal Building after his arrest last September. | Sun-Times file photo

Alexander Igolnikov, 67, of Northbrook, leaving the Dirksen Federal Building after his arrest last September. | Sun-Times file photo

Igolnikov then submitted the clean title from Indiana to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who issued a new title for the car, which was then painted Chicago Carriage Cab’s signature maroon and turned into a taxi without City Hall’s knowledge.

Igolnikov is a former business partner of Symon Garber, a Russian businessman who became Chicago’s taxi kingpin after meeting former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son Patrick Daley in Moscow a dozen years ago. Garber hired Daley’s former chief of staff, Gery Chico, as a lobbyist, as he built the city’s largest fleet, operating his maroon-colored taxis under then names of Chicago Carriage Cab and Royal 3CCC Chicago Taxi.

Garber wasn’t charged in the title-laundering scheme, which involved about 180 vehicles between 2007 and 2010 when the Sun-Times reported that Garber’s fleet included cars that had been wrecked or salvaged in other states. That’s a violation of Chicago city ordinances that forbid the use of wrecked or salvaged vehicles as taxicabs.

Shortly before the Sun-Times exposed the scam, the Daley administration cracked down on Garber’s use of illegal vehicles. Garber and his partners, including Igolnikov, were facing more than $9 million in fines when they struck a deal with City Hall shortly before Daley left office, agreeing to replace 600 of the fleet’s 800 cabs with hybrid vehicles and pay $1 million in fines.

The Sun-Times reporting on Garber’s use of wrecked vehicles prompted an investigation by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson and the FBI that resulted in Igolnikov’s indictment last September. By then, Garber had fired Igolnikov.

Garber, a polo-playing multimillionaire, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He also operates a fleet of taxis in New York City, where officials fined his company last year for illegally overcharging drivers on their cab leases. Garber’s company agreed to pay $1.6 million in fines and restitution to the drivers.

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