Evgeny Freidman, a cabdriver's son who came to own hundreds of medallions and to manage even more, died the other day at age 50. Freidman was a notorious tax cheat and a disbarred lawyer, who caused his partners millions in losses, but avoided prison by having the good luck of having what has been called a partnership with the similarly awful Michael Cohen, who was called former President Donald J. Trump's personal lawyer, but who was more of an errand boy. Freidman cooperated with prosecutors in the case against Cohen, who owned fewer medallions, but was bigger fish.
Freidman cheated the owners of the medallions he managed by failing to pay taxes on their behalf and, of course, cheated the government as well.
According to the Times, Freidman, a lawyer by training, once owned 250 taxi medallions a 4,000-square-foot townhouse off Park Avenue in Manhattan, an estate in Bridgehampton, N.Y., two villas on the French Riviera and a $400,000 Ferrari. Almost everything that was said about him was wrong. Though he owned those medallions, they were certainly heavily mortgaged, so to say he had $525 million in assets was certainly nonsense. More nonsense: He called himself the "Taxi King," and others repeated the moniker, even if others owned and managed more medallions than he did.
He seemed like the kind of guy who confused a bull market with his own genius. Freidman apparently believed that he caused the value of medallions to rise by overpaying for them, including at TLC auctions. That's nonsense of course.
“I'd go to an auction, I'd run up the price of a medallion, then I'd run to my bankers and say, ‘Look how high the medallions priced! Let me borrow against my portfolio,'” he told The Times. “And they let me do that.”
It was also nonsense that he somehow caused the crash in medallion prices. The crash was, in fact, caused by the rise of Uber and Lyft, aided and abetted by the TLC, which devastated the income of yellow cabs and ultimately crushed medallion owners. Freidman was a victim of that crash. But unlike so many others, he probably deserved his fate.