Oddly Enough

Men charged with taking tourists on police chase

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Operators of an unauthorized New York airport van service that took five French tourists on a high speed chase in an attempt to evade police were charged Wednesday with unlawful imprisonment.

Tuesday, the operators of the van service -- Khaalif Preacher, 27, and Ian L. McFarlane, 57 -- were approached by police for “hustling” travelers outside the Air France terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, prosecutors said.

Preacher, the van’s driver, and McFarlane drove off, ignoring pleas by the tourists to be let out, prosecutors said. Police followed the van “in a marked vehicle with their lights flashing and sirens blaring,” prosecutors said.

The van swerved through traffic, sped though stop signs and red lights, and traveled at speeds of 60 miles per hour on crowded residential streets, prosecutors said.

The men were also charged with assault, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest. If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.

Lawyers for the men could not immediately be reached for comment.

“As tourism, one of New York’s most revenue-producing industries, continues to grow, the need to provide a safe and welcoming environment requires stronger penalties for those who engage in unlawful solicitation of ground transportation,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Michelle Nichols and Sandra Maler