Two Brooklyn men who steered five unsuspecting French tourists to their unauthorized van service outside Kennedy International Airport’s Air France terminal were charged on June 24 with holding them against their will as the van raced through Queens and Brooklyn in an attempt to escape police, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The tourists’ frightening journey began when Port Authority police officers attempted to cite the defendants, identified as Khaalif Preacher, 27, and Ian McFarlane, 57, both of Brooklyn, for “hustling” passengers at the airport, Brown said. It ended with injuries to two officers and one of the tourists.
According to charges, a PA officer observed McFarlane offer ground transportation last Tuesday to five arriving passengers standing on the shuttle line outside of the Air France terminal at JFK and escort them to a green van being driven by Preacher. Displaying his shield, the officer allegedly approached McFarlane, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, tapped on the window and ordered the defendants to stop. McFarlane allegedly looked over at Preacher, who then took off at a high rate of speed, only to be forced to slow down because of airport traffic.
As another police officer approached the van on the driver’s side, banging on the window and ordering the defendants to stop and get out of the vehicle, McFarlane and Preacher refused and once again sped off at a high rate of speed, causing the officer to sustain an injury to his shoulder.
Port Authority police pursued the van in a marked vehicle with their lights flashing and sirens blaring and were assisted in the chase by at least 10 other police vehicles. During the chase from the airport, the defendants allegedly swerved through traffic, forcing vehicles and pedestrians to jump out of the van’s way and at times ran stop signs and red lights, traveling at speeds of 60 miles per hour on residential streets.
In the course of the chase, the five tourists — Esther Mamane and her mother Claudie Mamane, 60, and Gwenaelle Dulugat and her parents, Michele Dulugat, 61, and Jean-Jacques Dulugat, 62 — were allegedly locked in the van and the defendants refused their pleas to stop and let them go.
Additionally, it is alleged that when the defendants were confronted by a dead end street, they turned the van into a postal facility at 1050 Forbell Street in East New York, Brooklyn, and jumped out, fleeing on foot as the vehicle continued to move with the five screaming passengers locked inside. The van ultimately crashed into a stop sign and then a U.S. Postal Service truck.
After the crash, Claudie Mamane allegedly tried to exit the van but got caught in the seatbelt, causing her to fall to the ground — at which time her right arm was run over by the still moving van.
Finally, it is alleged that as a PA police officer chased after McFarlane on foot, the defendant only stopped running after the officer had cornered him and drawn his gun. As the officer put away his weapon and attempted to handcuff McFarlane, the defendant allegedly began wrestling with the officer and kicking him, causing the officer to sustain a sprained knee. Preacher also allegedly resisted police efforts to place him under arrest.
Brown noted that Section 1220b of the Vehicle and Traffic Law presently makes it a violation for any driver, for a price and without authorization or prearrangement, to offer ground transportation at an airport and subjects the offender to a fine of $100 to $250 and up to 15 days in jail.
“Unwitting passengers at our city’s two major airports are confronted daily by unscrupulous individuals who aggressively offer illegal rides,” Brown said. “Often, these passengers are unfamiliar with New York prices and/or U.S. currency and, as a result, are charged exorbitant fees to be driven even the shortest of distances.”
Preacher and McFarlane face a slew of charges in Queens Criminal Court: second-degree assault, second-degree assault on an officer, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree unlawful imprisonment, resisting arrest, third-degree unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and unlawful solicitation of ground transportation services. If convicted, the defendants each face up to seven years in prison.