The city has fined town car companies $16,000 after the Mercury caught their drivers offering too-cheap fares to the airport. We caught four hotels offering too-cheap fares to the airport during a spot-check for this July 10 article on the alleged racket. Now, the city's private for hire transportation program administrator Frank Dufay says there'll be weekly stings until the alleged problem calms down.

"We caught them dead to rights," he says. "Our employees swear and certify that they paid these fares."

City regulations require town-car service providers to charge customers traveling between downtown and the airport a minimum of $50. The idea is to stop town cars from competing with licensed cab firms, who charge around $26 for a ride to the airport. But it seems hotel bellhops have been pimping out cheaper town-car fares to hotel customers, in return, presumably, for a cut of the profits.

Dufay's first sting operation took place last Tuesday August 12, and caught 19 drivers either offering too-cheap fares to the airport, or offering rides without a reservation. Here's a list of the fines, which were given out at the Marriott Riverfront, Hotel Lucia, Hotel Vintage Plaza, Marriott City Center, Doubletree Lloyd Center, Benson, Hilton, Hotel Monacao, Hotel Westin, and the Governor Hotel:


I've asked if I can go along on the next sting. And please: Don't thank me. Especially if you're a bellboy. I am, ahem, "just doing my job." Cough. Upholding justice. That's right. You may send all your future news tips here.