Brazilian cabbies allegedly asked for ‘whole package’

An alleged bribery scheme that has a veteran former San Francisco police officer facing criminal charges was common knowledge among Bay Area Brazilians who could not pass the written exam required to become a taxi driver, according to court documents.

The FBI first learned of “possible corruption by members of the San Francisco Police Taxi Detail” in 2007 when two members of the now-defunct Taxicab Commission introduced special agents to a confidential source, according to an arrest affidavit prepared by the Police Department.

That source said a Yellow Cab driver had paid Paul Makaveckas, a 36-year veteran officer who has since retired. Makaveckas is accused of being involved in a scheme with William Hancock to charge Brazilian taxi drivers who could not write in English to pass the SFPD exam.

It was “common knowledge” in the Brazilian community that Hancock had a relationship with Makaveckas and that he could help pass the required training for a $100 fee, according to the affidavit. Students allegedly had to go to Hancock’s driving school, Flag-A-Cab, and ask for the “whole package.”

FBI Special Agent Scott Springer set up an undercover sting in which three agents documented instances when Makaveckas reportedly ignored incorrect answers to questions for a bribe.

On March 10, 2009, the FBI confronted Hancock. In their interview, Hancock reportedly told agents that Makaveckas would collect envelopes of $100 bills, which he would then spend on dates with Brazilian women.

Hancock told agents that Makaveckas “became greedier and told Hancock to provide more candidates to pay the $100 fee,” the affidavit said. “Hancock added that Makaveckas would intentionally fail candidates in order to get him to pay his fee.”

Later that day, investigators confronted Makaveckas after he allegedly took an envelope containing $500 from Hancock. They say he admitted to taking money to give easier versions of the taxi exam.

Makaveckas reportedly told investigators he would use the money to “put a tank of gas in my car” or give the money to “homeless people on the streets.”

Makaveckas’ attorney, Randy Knox, would not comment on the specifics of the case, but said his client was a dedicated officer who is innocent until proven guilty.

“If you were to ask the overwhelming majority of cab drivers in this town what they think about him, they would say he’s a very helpful guy who’s incapable of corruption,” Knox said.

It is still unclear how many cab drivers were involved in the scheme.

Makaveckas and Hancock are expected in court Tuesday.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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