Cop convicted of taking bribes from taxi drivers

A San Francisco jury found a former San Francisco police officer guilty Monday of accepting roughly $25,000 in bribes over a two-year period ranging 2007 to 2009 from taxi drivers in exchange for a passing grade on a written exam required for a permit.

Paul Makaveckas, a 69-year-old Fremont resident and 36-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, was found guilty today of two felony counts of bribery and could face five years in state prison, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

Makaveckas was assigned to the police department’s taxi detail for more than 20 years and was responsible for administering and grading the police department’s taxicab exams, which taxi drivers needed to pass in order to obtain a permit to drive a taxi in the city.

Evidence presented at the trial, following an FBI investigation, showed that Makaveckas would hold the exams on Thursdays at the San Francisco Hall of Justice and would accept bribes from a friend, William Hancock, who owned the Flag-A-Cab taxi school.

As part of the FBI investigation, on March 10, 2009 Hancock wore a wire and recorded a conversation during which he gave Makaveckas $500 in bribes in order to ensure that his taxi driver students passed their exams, according to the district attorney’s office.

Testimony during the trial revealed that Makaveckas accepted about $25,000 in bribes during the two-year period prior to his retirement in March 2009.

The jury found Makaveckas guilty of accepting bribes from Hancock on that date, as well as guilty of accepting bribes from prospective taxi cab drivers via Hancock during the two-year period leading up to the recorded exchange, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on two additional bribery counts.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, evidence in the trial showed that during the scheme Hancock would collect $100 from each taxi cab driver applicant who sought a guarantee that they would pass the exam. He would then hand over all of the money he had collected to Makaveckas, who was the police officer in charge of grading the taxicab exam.

Makaveckas is scheduled for sentencing on September 18.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement today that Makaveckas abused his position of power.

“He was sworn to serve the public, instead he chose to serve himself,” Gascon said.

The District Attorney’s Office has not said whether the taxi drivers that passed under Makaveckas’ watch were required to retake their exams.