This week, the FBI raided the office of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly seizing business records and emails. But the feds have interest in a part of Cohen’s life that hasn’t received much attention publicly: his involvement with a New York City taxi business.
The search warrant executed Monday included a request for documents related to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions in New York City, reported CNN. Cohen has held numerous taxi medallions over the years, and BuzzFeed reported his time as a New York City cab owner helped him forge “some of the core relationships, and honed some of the sharp-elbowed tactics, that would define his wide-ranging business career.”
The back story, as BuzzFeed lays out, is fascinating:
Closer to home, questions have arisen about Cohen’s work with Symon Garber and Evgeny Freidman, two Soviet-born New York taxi barons who managed his fleet, two sources with knowledge of the special counsel’s inquiry told BuzzFeed News.
Cohen followed his father-in-law into the rough-and-tumble world of New York City taxis in March 1997, registering five new cab companies, including Sir Michael Hacking Corp. and Lady Laura Hacking Corp., according to New York state business registration records.
His holdings grew. New York City records show Cohen, his wife, and his in-laws hold a stake in more than 15 colorfully named taxi companies such as Golden Child Cab Corp. and Smoochie Cab Corp. When Cohen testified before the House and Senate Intelligence committees last year, one lawmaker asked him if he used the alias “Michael Hacking” — because the lawmaker mistakenly thought “Hacking” was a surname rather than another word for taxi driver.
Smoochie Cabs, ha. BuzzFeed couldn’t reach Garber for comment, but the news outlet described a number of taxi management agreements Cohen and Garber later reached.
In June 2006, Yellow Cab SLSJET agreed to pay Cohen a $69,000 monthly fee to use 30 of the medallions that every taxicab must have. In return, SLSJET would get to keep any additional profits.
New York authorities fined SLSJET about $1.6 million in 2014 for ripping off its drivers on fees to lease vehicles. It’s unclear if SLSJET was managing Cohen’s medallions during this time.
The value of Cohen’s medallions have suffered the same fate as countless taxi drivers in the city, thanks to the aggressive rise of Uber and Lyft. Today, his medallions are managed by a company operated by Friedman.
Last year, Friedman was charged with stealing $5 million, and he allegedly threatened to kill a former business partner’s family, according to the New York Post.