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A British couple on holiday in New York say they were forced to pay £350 for a ten-minute journey during a scam by a rogue taxi company.
Craig Nickels and partner Ellie Austin arrived at New York City's JFK Airport, exhausted after an eight-hour flight. So, when they saw a man offering private taxis they thought they were on to a winner. I mean, who wouldn't want to avoid mile-long cab queues when you just want to get a wash and have a beer?
They agreed to the private ride, but started to get suspicious when the guy led them to a private car park a good distance from the taxi rank. They were loaded into a minibus with a second man in the driver's seat.
Craig, from Derby, said: "I knew it was supposed to be $50 or $60, but I started to get scared. There were two guys and I had no idea what they were going to do."
The drivers asked for the couple's passport details and addresses, then told them they needed to cover the $20 parking fee in advance.
"He started explaining to us that there were new toll fees for going between boroughs and over bridges," said Craig. "He then told me to take me to Manhattan it was going to be $900."
Starting to get worried about his luggage - and the engagement ring hidden inside it - and at the possibility that he and Ellie were in danger of being attacked, Craig handed over the cash.
"He was going on and on about how his boss would get involved, and while he wasn't physically forceful, he was trying to scare me," said Craig.
"In the end, he said he'd drop it to $470 and in the end I gave him it. I was shaken up and upset and scared."
The couple had saved for months for the trip, on which Craig was planning to surprise his now fiancée Ellie. They'd brought $900 for the whole holiday, not expecting to be spending it all in the first half-an-hour.
"Me and the Mrs couldn't believe what we were hearing. I told him to pull over," said Craig.
The couple took their luggage and headed to the subway, which is when they realised they had only travelled four miles. They called the police, who took statements when they returned to the airport five days later.
Craig said: "The cops said they had heard of these people and had heard of people losing their luggage when they drive off. They absolutely hustled us."
Luckily, Craig's parents managed to save the day and sent them £400 to get them through the holiday.
It's not all bad news, though. Craig did go on to propose to Ellie at the top of the Rockefeller Center, and she only went and said yes.
Words: Megan Walsh
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