A sign warning counterfeit plates are illegal seen along the northbound...

A sign warning counterfeit plates are illegal seen along the northbound Hutchinson Parkway at the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

Law enforcement operations have seized more than 1,500 vehicles since March in 25 operations targeting toll evaders and “ghost plates,” officials said Tuesday.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, state police and NYPD estimated the drivers owed more than $12.5 million in unpaid tolls and fees. The MTA has estimated the cost of toll evasion at around $50 million a year.

Including the latest enforcement Monday on the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx, law enforcement operations this year have resulted in 339 arrests and more than 12,000 summonses, including for registration violations and unpaid tolls.

Port Authority officials said they recouped $25 million from toll evaders last year.

“A few years ago, the Port Authority leadership started to see we were having an issue with the loss of revenue because people were cheating the tolls,” said Ed Cetnar, superintendent of public safety for the Port Authority. 

Monday’s operation by the multiagency task force on the Whitestone Bridge led to the seizure of 55 vehicles, 13 arrests and 433 tickets, where vehicles had amassed $480,000 in unpaid tolls, fees and judgments. A July 2 sting led to 67 vehicles seized on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which had $537,429 in unpaid tolls. Authorities also made 25 arrests and seized 79 vehicles during a June 24 operation at various New York City bridges and tunnels totaling more than $128,000 in unpaid tolls. A stop on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, formerly the Triborough Bridge, of a vehicle with an obstructed license plate led to the arrest of a driver wanted on several charges, who also had a large amount of drugs in the car, officials said.

MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said authorities collect about 98% of tolls owed by repeat offenders targeted for vehicle seizures. Many of the vehicles impounded included luxury vehicles, Lieber said.

“This is another warning, that if you have a ghost plate or covering, you’re going to be stopped by one of our bridge and tunnel officers,” Lieber said.

Authorities said offenders may use obstructed or stolen license plates to avoid tolls or commit other crimes.

Lieber noted toll evasions increased after the 2020 pandemic. He said about 90% of New York City commuters travel by public transit and this was ensuring all drivers pay their shares.

“This is about fairness. It’s not right when drivers are tooling around and are stiffing New Yorkers. This is making sure New Yorkers don’t get stuck with the bill that deadbeats won’t pay,” Lieber said.

On Long Island, Nassau County police Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said Nassau officers specially enforce illegal or covered license plates. The department did not have specific enforcement data.

Suffolk County police did not have information available Tuesday about illegal license plate violations or enforcement.

Law enforcement operations have seized more than 1,500 vehicles since March in 25 operations targeting toll evaders and “ghost plates,” officials said Tuesday.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, state police and NYPD estimated the drivers owed more than $12.5 million in unpaid tolls and fees. The MTA has estimated the cost of toll evasion at around $50 million a year.

Including the latest enforcement Monday on the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx, law enforcement operations this year have resulted in 339 arrests and more than 12,000 summonses, including for registration violations and unpaid tolls.

Port Authority officials said they recouped $25 million from toll evaders last year.

“A few years ago, the Port Authority leadership started to see we were having an issue with the loss of revenue because people were cheating the tolls,” said Ed Cetnar, superintendent of public safety for the Port Authority. 

Monday’s operation by the multiagency task force on the Whitestone Bridge led to the seizure of 55 vehicles, 13 arrests and 433 tickets, where vehicles had amassed $480,000 in unpaid tolls, fees and judgments. A July 2 sting led to 67 vehicles seized on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which had $537,429 in unpaid tolls. Authorities also made 25 arrests and seized 79 vehicles during a June 24 operation at various New York City bridges and tunnels totaling more than $128,000 in unpaid tolls. A stop on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, formerly the Triborough Bridge, of a vehicle with an obstructed license plate led to the arrest of a driver wanted on several charges, who also had a large amount of drugs in the car, officials said.

MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said authorities collect about 98% of tolls owed by repeat offenders targeted for vehicle seizures. Many of the vehicles impounded included luxury vehicles, Lieber said.

“This is another warning, that if you have a ghost plate or covering, you’re going to be stopped by one of our bridge and tunnel officers,” Lieber said.

Authorities said offenders may use obstructed or stolen license plates to avoid tolls or commit other crimes.

Lieber noted toll evasions increased after the 2020 pandemic. He said about 90% of New York City commuters travel by public transit and this was ensuring all drivers pay their shares.

“This is about fairness. It’s not right when drivers are tooling around and are stiffing New Yorkers. This is making sure New Yorkers don’t get stuck with the bill that deadbeats won’t pay,” Lieber said.

On Long Island, Nassau County police Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said Nassau officers specially enforce illegal or covered license plates. The department did not have specific enforcement data.

Suffolk County police did not have information available Tuesday about illegal license plate violations or enforcement.

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