Turkish immigrant Melih Kalyoncu was just doing his two good friends a solid, dropping them off at Kennedy Airport for their flight to San Francisco, DNAinfo New York reports.
His good deed, however, definitely did not go unpunished: He was accused by Taxi & Limousine Commission agents of operating an illegal cab and was slapped with almost $1,000 in fines. His car was also confiscated in the May 1 incident.
According to the news report, Kalyoncu tried to explain that the duo were just friends he has known for more than two decades, but the agents did not believe him. His friends, George and Carol Arnold, told DNAinfo that they believe their friend was profiled because he was a Muslim and had a Quran visible on his dashboard.
“I think he was absolutely targeted by these goons,” George Arnold, 66, told DNAinfo, slamming the agents. “This infuriates me. There is no room in New York for anyone to be abused like this.”
Kalyoncu was stopped before he could pull away after the couple had gone inside the airport. He said that inspectors accused him of operating an illegal taxicab and wrote the ticket.
“I told them I’m making $70,000 … why should I come here for work?” Kolyoncu, who works as a postman, recalled. “If my car goes three times a day, seven days a week, to the airport, then pull me over.”
Meanwhile, the Arnolds had no idea what was going on, although they were approached by a man who demanded to know how they had arrived at the airport. Assuming that he was a hack, they ignored the man and carried on with their trip. They didn’t find out what had happened to their friend until they returned.
“Right away I said, ‘He was profiled,’” George Arnold said. “They saw him. He’s a religious man. They saw the Quran on his dashboard.”
Kalyoncu’s car was confiscated and he was given a hearing date for May 13, but the postman needed his vehicle for work and could not wait that long for a judge to decide his fate. So he pleaded guilty, paying a $600 fine plus a $381 impound fee in order to get his minivan back as soon as possible. He also got a warning letter from his boss for missing a day’s work.
The Arnolds felt so horrible about the incident that they paid for the ticket as well as the day of work he missed but said it was “still not enough for the pain that man went through.”
The accusations come just days after the story emerged of a black man being pulled over by the TLC in a fairly similar situation. Dan Keys Jr. was accused of operating an illegal cab last year when he dropped his biracial wife off for work.
Read more at DNAinfo New York.