Attorney General James Announces Taxi Operator In Contempt Of Court For Cheating Asylum Seekers Fleeing To The Border
Christopher Crowningshield, Owner of Northern Taxi and Chris’ Shuttle Service, violated AG’s order to stop overcharging vulnerable persons fleeing New York for the Canadian border
PLATTSBURGH -- Attorney General Letitia James today announced a guilty plea in a contempt of court proceeding that found that Christopher Crowningshield was illegally taking advantage of asylum seekers. Crowningshield, the owner of Northern Taxi and Chris’ Shuttle Service, routinely overcharged vulnerable asylum seekers who were using his company for transportation to the Canadian border. In May 2017, a court order obtained by the Attorney General’s Office prohibited him from taking financial advantage of these individuals. The Attorney General’s Office found that Crowningshield violated that order and continued to overcharge passengers. Yesterday, Crowningshield pleaded guilty to civil and criminal contempt of court and was fined $10,000 and sentenced to serve three weekends in jail.
“Immigrant communities are scared and it is unconscionable that business owners would try to take advantage of that fear to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Not only did Christopher Crowningshield repeatedly swindle these vulnerable individuals, but he then violated a court order strictly prohibiting him from engaging in the same predatory behavior. We will never tolerate individuals that profit from fear or disrespect the law.”
Attorney General James presented Supreme Court Judge Mark Powers with affidavits showing that Crowningshield and Chris’ Shuttle Service charged as much as $100 per person or $300 per family for cab rides from the bus station in Plattsburgh to the Roxham Road border crossing into Canada. The filings also showed that Crowningshield’s cabs failed to conspicuously post fares as required by New York State law and a consent judgment agreed to by Crowningshield and the Attorney General in 2017.
Beginning nearly two years ago, Crowningshield was prohibited by court order from charging more than $92.50 for the half hour trip from Plattsburgh to the border, regardless of the number of passengers in his taxis. However, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office, posing as asylum seekers, were charged many times that amount. The court order also required Crowningshield to keep detailed records of his drivers’ trips to the border and to regularly notify the Attorney General of the fares being charged. Crowningshield did neither of these. Instead, he tried unsuccessfully to skirt these court mandates by changing the name of his company from Northern Taxi to Chris’ Shuttle Service.
Judge Powers ordered Crowningshield’s $10,000 civil contempt penalty to be paid to the Attorney General’s Office for use by the Office to deal with immigration and asylum issues. He ordered Crowningshield to serve three weekends in the Clinton County Jail beginning May 18.
The matter was handled by Glen Michaels, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Plattsburgh Regional Office. Investigative work was carried out by Investigators Justin Rebideau, Clint Dumoulin, Robert Pompey-Goodman, and Crystal Combs of the Attorney General’s Investigations Division, under the supervision of Investigator Harry Czosnykowski and Deputy Chief Investigator Jonathan Wood. The Plattsburgh Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices led by Jill Faber, Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs.