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Ex-top cab official arrested in vehicle title laundering case

A former top official of Chicago’s largest cab company — Chicago Carriage Cab — has been charged with illegally obtaining “clean” vehicle titles for at least 180 wrecked cars that had been put into service as taxis on the city streets in violation of city laws.

Alexsandr Igolnikov, 67, of Northbrook, was charged with conspiracy and two counts each of interstate transportation of false automobile titles and possession of false auto titles in an indictment that a federal grand jury returned last month, federal authorities said Monday.

At the time of the alleged scam, Igolnikov was a business partner of Symon Garber, a Russian immigrant who became Chicago’s cab king after meeting Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son Patrick Daley in 2003. Garber owned the garage at 2617 S. Wabash where some of the wrecked cars were remade into taxis and then put on the streets of Chicago, according to the indictment.

Garber fired Igolnikov a few years ago, according to June Rosner, a Garber spokeswoman.

The federal charges come four years after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation revealed that Garber violated city of Chicago ordinances because his fleet of taxis included vehicles that had been wrecked or salvaged, including a suburban police car and police cars from other states. City Hall prohibits any wrecked or salvaged vehicles from being used as cabs.

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The Sun-Times investigation sparked scrutiny by the city of Chicago’s inspector general’s office and the FBI, an investigation that is ongoing.

Before the newspaper exposed the title scam, City Hall had cracked down on the illegal use of wrecked vehicles by Garber and other companies. Garber’s company agreed to pay $1 million in March 2011, settling the investigation by Daley’s consumer services agency, which found that his two fleets of maroon-colored cabs — Chicago Carriage Cab and Royal 3CCC Chicago Taxi — had illegally converted 183 salvaged or rebuilt vehicles into taxis.

Garber and his partners, including Igolnikov, had been facing more than $9 million in fines when they settled the case with City Hall in a deal that called for Garber to replace more than 600 of the 800 cabs with hybrid vehicles.

Garber, a polo-playing multimillionaire who lives in New Jersey, and his company had deep ties to the Daley administration. He has been a close friend of Daley’s son, and Daley’s former chief of staff, Gery Chico, worked as a lobbyist for the cab company. Chico’s law firm helped strike the settlement with City Hall.

Garber operated 400 cabs in New York City when he began operating in Chicago. He has also had a fleet of cabs in New Orleans.

Igolnikov carried out the scheme between 2007 and April 2010 with an unidentified auto broker in Illinois, two others in Indiana and two unidentified law enforcement officers in Indiana, according to the indictment.

Under the name of his company, Seven Amigos Used Cars, Igolnikov bought wrecked or salvaged vehicles through online auto auctions or directly from the three unidentified auto brokers. Those brokers would apply for clean titles from the state of Indiana by submitting bogus affidavits from the two Indiana law enforcement officers. Once a clean title was obtained from Indiana, disguising a vehicle’s history as a wrecked or salvaged vehicle, Igolnikov and his alleged cohorts would then submit that clean title to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who issued new titles for the cars that were repainted maroon and turned into cabs without City Hall’s knowledge.

Seven Amigos would then sell the repaired cars to other companies, including companies Igolnikov co-owned with Garber, and then they became part of Garber’s fleet of maroon cabs.