Thursday, September 4, 2008

New York City - Driver Arrested For Rigging Plates To Beat Toll

New York City - A Queens truck driver took a move from the magician’s playbook, making his license plate seemingly disappear as he drove through a toll plaza without paying the $40 fee, the Port Authority said Wednesday.
Orlando Payano’s tractor-trailer had a cable running from the license plate to the dashboard cigarette lighter when PA police stopped it recently on the Staten Island side of the Goethals Bridge, authority spokesman Steve Coleman said.
A tug on the lighter flipped the plate underneath the big rig’s belly - and beyond the range of surveillance cameras used to identify toll-beaters, officials said.
“This is probably the most unusual thing we’ve seen,” Coleman said.
PA police charged Payano, 30, of South Ozone Park, with toll evasion and license plate destruction. The rear license plate was bent, partially concealing its markings, Coleman said.
Reached on the road in Buffalo Wednesday night, Payano said he was mystified by the charges and may retain a lawyer to try to quash them. He insisted his truck has an E-ZPass tag.
“I don’t have any cable or anything,” he said. “It’s not true.” Payano said he didn’t notice that the rear plate on the trailer was bent.
PA Officer Edward Benenati was watching cars and trucks on the New Jersey side of the bridge on Aug. 26, focusing on license plates to detect efforts to conceal their markings, when he saw the plate on Payano’s truck flip upward, Coleman said.
When police pulled the truck over on the Staten Island side, the plate was back in its correct position, Coleman said. Officers then spotted the cable and discovered that the plate was mounted on a spring-activated hinge, enabling it to be maneuvered, he said.
“Kudos for this terrific police officer who was paying attention, was aware and alert. … This was a terrific catch,” PA Police Superintendent Sam Plumeri said.
Investigators haven’t determined if Payano has used the plate trick at other crossings, Coleman said.
Port Authority toll plazas do not have gates that lift after a toll is paid. The authority relies on surveillance cameras and random patrols to catch toll-beaters. The one-way toll for the Goethals Bridge for a five-axle truck is $40.

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