Joseph and Michele Maldari, of Dix Hills, had a license plate stolen off their car while it was parked in the Huntington LIRR station in August 2021. Since then, the thief has racked up thousands of dollars in moving violations using the stolen plate, which the Maldaris have been fighting in traffic court. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

A license plate stolen more than a year ago off a car belonging to a Dix Hills couple has plunged them into a bureaucratic entanglement with New York City over $8,400 in fines for speeding violations that they say someone else racked up while driving with their plate.

Joseph and Michele Maldari's nightmare began this past August when they returned home from vacation and found four speed-camera violations in their mailbox, Michele said.

She disputed the violations, she said, checking off on the notices that the license plate had been stolen off the couple's car in August 2021. She attached the Suffolk County police report about the theft, and a document from the Department of Motor Vehicles indicating that the license plate had been stolen and a new one issued.

The violation letters show a picture of a black Infiniti Q50 speeding through school zones, Joseph Maldari said, adding his Infiniti is a different model, the G37, and pewter in color. 

"I seriously thought I was going to get a letter back saying, 'Great. Thank you so much. We'll take care of this for you,'" Michele Maldari said. Instead, what she got a month later was a letter notifying her that her claim was rejected, saying, "'You have not provided sufficient evidence.' And by that time, we had 65 violations in the house," she said.

The violations now total 136, she said.

After submitting yet more paperwork, she said the couple's attempt to dispute the violations was denied a second time.

Michele Maldari said the city noted she had denied it was her vehicle that had been speeding through school zones, most of which were in Brooklyn, and the couple said they noted in their documentation that they both live and work on Long Island and were not driving in the city. Joseph is a Long Island Rail Road conductor and Michele is a first-grade teacher in the Northport-East Northport school district. 

Michele Maldari said the city thought the license plate was stolen this past August: "They didn't even look at it carefully enough to know it was a year ago" when the plate was stolen. 

Joseph Maldari said he reported the plate was stolen off his Infiniti on Aug. 28, 2021, when it was parked in a Huntington train station lot. "We were also getting tickets from E-ZPass. They wiped everything out. We haven't seen another ticket since," he said.

But not so with the city Department of Finance. 

"I don't want my credit to be ruined," Joseph Maldari said, alluding to communications from the city that their wages could be garnished, for example, to recoup the thousands of dollars in fines. "I don't want my wages garnished ... I don't think that's going to end up happening, but it's just a major headache and pain in the neck to try to clear this up. We've spent, Michele even more than me, countless hours now on the phone, submitting documentation back and forth and it's never enough to satisfy them."

Michele Maldari said in recent days she is communicating with someone in the city's finance office to try to resolve the issue.

Ryan Lavis, a spokesman for the finance department, said in an email to Newsday: "DOF has been in contact with Ms. Maldari to help resolve this issue and we are continuing to investigate this matter."

Michele Maldari said of another department official she spoke with: "When I spoke to him on the phone, he was lovely. He was not giving me a hard time. I do want to make that clear."

Still, she was exasperated by the additional information he requested. She read his email, which said in part: "I'm sorry that you have to go through this ordeal. But as I said, although it seems like a lot and not terribly quick, it will be as efficient as possible, as long as you're able to provide the documents and forms, etc., that are required.'"

Michele Maldari sighed, adding, "Doesn't it seem like I've done that?"

A license plate stolen more than a year ago off a car belonging to a Dix Hills couple has plunged them into a bureaucratic entanglement with New York City over $8,400 in fines for speeding violations that they say someone else racked up while driving with their plate.

Joseph and Michele Maldari's nightmare began this past August when they returned home from vacation and found four speed-camera violations in their mailbox, Michele said.

She disputed the violations, she said, checking off on the notices that the license plate had been stolen off the couple's car in August 2021. She attached the Suffolk County police report about the theft, and a document from the Department of Motor Vehicles indicating that the license plate had been stolen and a new one issued.

The violation letters show a picture of a black Infiniti Q50 speeding through school zones, Joseph Maldari said, adding his Infiniti is a different model, the G37, and pewter in color. 

What to know

  • Joseph and Michele Maldari of Dix Hills had the license plate from their car stolen in Huntington in August 2021.
  • A year later, they received speed-camera violation notices from the New York City Department of Finance, which they are disputing.
  • The 136 speed-camera violations totaled $8,400 in fines.

"I seriously thought I was going to get a letter back saying, 'Great. Thank you so much. We'll take care of this for you,'" Michele Maldari said. Instead, what she got a month later was a letter notifying her that her claim was rejected, saying, "'You have not provided sufficient evidence.' And by that time, we had 65 violations in the house," she said.

The violations now total 136, she said.

After submitting yet more paperwork, she said the couple's attempt to dispute the violations was denied a second time.

Michele Maldari said the city noted she had denied it was her vehicle that had been speeding through school zones, most of which were in Brooklyn, and the couple said they noted in their documentation that they both live and work on Long Island and were not driving in the city. Joseph is a Long Island Rail Road conductor and Michele is a first-grade teacher in the Northport-East Northport school district. 

Michele Maldari said the city thought the license plate was stolen this past August: "They didn't even look at it carefully enough to know it was a year ago" when the plate was stolen. 

Joseph Maldari said he reported the plate was stolen off his Infiniti on Aug. 28, 2021, when it was parked in a Huntington train station lot. "We were also getting tickets from E-ZPass. They wiped everything out. We haven't seen another ticket since," he said.

But not so with the city Department of Finance. 

"I don't want my credit to be ruined," Joseph Maldari said, alluding to communications from the city that their wages could be garnished, for example, to recoup the thousands of dollars in fines. "I don't want my wages garnished ... I don't think that's going to end up happening, but it's just a major headache and pain in the neck to try to clear this up. We've spent, Michele even more than me, countless hours now on the phone, submitting documentation back and forth and it's never enough to satisfy them."

Michele Maldari said in recent days she is communicating with someone in the city's finance office to try to resolve the issue.

Ryan Lavis, a spokesman for the finance department, said in an email to Newsday: "DOF has been in contact with Ms. Maldari to help resolve this issue and we are continuing to investigate this matter."

Michele Maldari said of another department official she spoke with: "When I spoke to him on the phone, he was lovely. He was not giving me a hard time. I do want to make that clear."

Still, she was exasperated by the additional information he requested. She read his email, which said in part: "I'm sorry that you have to go through this ordeal. But as I said, although it seems like a lot and not terribly quick, it will be as efficient as possible, as long as you're able to provide the documents and forms, etc., that are required.'"

Michele Maldari sighed, adding, "Doesn't it seem like I've done that?"

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