A Russian immigrant was sentenced Thursday to a year in federal prison for his role in a scheme to falsify documents so he could illegally convert 112 salvaged cars into taxis, creating Chicago’s largest fleet of cabs for his boss, a close friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son.
Alexander Igolnikov was under pressure from Patrick Daley’s friend, Symon Garber, to buy more cars because Garber had gone on a binge buying city-issued taxi medallions and needed more vehicles for his fleet of maroon-colored cabs, according to Edward Genson, Igolnikov’s attorney.
“He did this to satisfy the cab company’s desire to put as many cabs on the street,” Genson told U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang.
Chang said Igolnikov’s scheme would have likely continued indefinitely if not for a crackdown by the Daley administration in response to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation in 2010.
The Sun-Times reported that Garber’s companies — Chicago Carriage Cab and Royal 3CCC, which form the city’s biggest fleet of taxis — had converted salvaged wrecks into cabs in violation of a city regulation enacted under Mayor Daley.
Igolnikov, a 68-year-old grandfather from Northbrook, had faced a possible sentence of as much as five years in prison after pleading guilty last year to a single count of securities fraud, admitting he laundered the title of a wrecked vehicle so it could illegally be used as a cab.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Dollear argued that Igolnikov should have been sentenced to prison for two years because his scheme put the public at risk between 2007 and 2010.
“Thankfully nobody was hurt,” Dollear said. “Whatever his motive, he made a conscious decision to put 112 salvaged cabs on the streets of Chicago and sat back while the consumers bore the risk.”
Garber, a wealthy Russian immigrant who has a stable of polo ponies, had been operating fleets of taxis in Moscow and New York when he met Daley’s son in Moscow in August 2001. Two years later, the Daley administration gave Garber permission to operate cabs in Chicago. Igolnikov, who had been driving a cab in New York City, moved to Chicago, serving as president of Garber’s company.
Igolnikov became part of the title “laundering” scheme in 2007 along with two Indiana car dealers, who were granted immunity from prosecution. With phony affidavits signed by Indiana police officers, the Indiana car dealers would obtain titles from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles stating that the wrecked cars had been rebuilt. Then Igolnikov and his cohorts placed stickers over the word “rebuilt,” submitting the Indiana documents to the Illinois Secretary of State, which issued clean titles so the cars could be registered with City Hall as taxicabs.
After the Sun-Times discovered Garber’s fleet included salvaged titles, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson and the FBI opened an investigation, resulting in Igolnikov’s indictment in 2014.
City Hall found that other cab companies also had salvaged cars in their fleets, but Garber was the biggest offender with 183 salvaged cars. He and his companies paid $815,000 in fines, and agreed to update the fleet of 600 cars.
While a Russian translator assisted Igolnikov in court, he read a statement to the judge in English: “I am very sorry for all of my bad decisions. I make no excuse. . . I am embarrassed. I am ashamed.”