By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Doveton cabbie of 20 years has been disqualified after rorting more than $27,000 from the state’s disability taxi program.
Metin Akkusoglu pleaded guilty to a rolled-up charge of obtaining property by deception from the Multi Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP) at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court on 23 March.
He had been accused of fraudulently processing 14 disabled passengers’ MPTP cards on 749 occasions in 2018 and 2019.
Each time, Akkusoglu pocketed half-fare subsidies of up to $60 from Commercial Passenger Vehicle Victoria (CPVV) for trips when MPVP members weren’t in his cab.
The most commonly misused was a Dandenong North passenger’s MPVP card, which was retained by Akkusoglu after a cab ride in May 2018.
The cab driver later fraudulently processed the card 697 times to the value of $25,205.
The passenger didn’t speak English. His daughter told CPVV investigators that she believed neither of her parents used the half-price taxi card.
“(The daughter) was unaware that the card was missing until she was told by the CPVV,” a prosecution submission stated.
“To her knowledge her parents never use taxis.”
Another passenger left her card with Akkusoglu after he dropped her off at Melbourne Airport to fly to New Zealand.
Akkusoglu was also charged with allowing a young male to log into his Cabcharge system and process the MPVP card several times at Akkusoglu’s house in August 2019.
On 4 January, CPVV cancelled Akkusoglu’s driver accreditation due to his “MPTP misconduct”. He was disqualified from reapplying for four years.
CPVV chief executive Aaron de Rozario told Star Journal that the rort was a “deliberate attempt over a significant period of time to defraud a system set up to help some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people”.
MPTP was a “lifeline for thousands of people” unable to use other forms of public transport due to disability or other accessibility needs”, Mr de Rozario said.
“Being able to use MPTP services allows them to participate in community life, and in many cases access employment or education.”
He said the CPVV had multiple processes to identify fraudulent MPTP transactions.
“We take MPTP fraud very seriously.
“Anyone who commits fraud, no matter the level, risks criminal action and losing their right to work in the commercial passenger vehicle industry.”
On 23 March, magistrate Andrew Halse placed Akkusoglu to a 12-month community correction order including 120 hours of unpaid work.
The cabbie repaid $15,000 before the matter was finalised.
He was ordered by the magistrate to pay back the remaining $12,176.35 to CPVV.