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New York City Marshal Linda Swift and Legalized Extortion

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Ever had your car towed away unexpectedly? How about being removed from your car by someone implying themselves to be a law enforcement official? I’d like to introduce you to the New York City Marshal program, and particularly to one City Marshal, Linda Swift.

Let’s start with full disclosure:

  1. I’m fully aware that I’m venting here
  2. That’s OK; I use examples from my personal life to talk business change all the time
  3. While a long description of the actions I suffered this week at the hands of one New York City Marshal might not seem to have any business lessons, I promise, they do
  4. I don’t think Marshal Linda Swift broke any laws

On Tuesday evening I was sitting in my parked car, waiting to pick up a friend at an event that was ending at a building in midtown Manhattan. A large man knocked on my window, asked me to roll it down, and when I fumbled trying to turn on the car so I could do that took it upon himself to open my car door. At that point, two other large men arrived at the side of my vehicle escorting a woman wearing a badge around her neck detective-style, who identified herself as “New York City Marshal Linda Swift”, demanding that I get out of my car.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard of a “New York City Marshal”. Neither had I. But between the show of force and the badge, I was stunned long enough to do as I was told—which of course is what Marshal Swift was counting on.

Marshal Swift and her posse asked that I walk toward their large, dark, menacing van, from which she produced a court order authorizing her to seize my vehicle as collateral for outstanding parking tickets:

Court Order From NYC City Marshall Linda Swift Mayor Bloomberg.jpg

There are enough errors in the way that Order is constructed that any first-year law student could get it thrown out of court. Nevertheless, by the time Marshal Swift had finished explaining to me that I needed to call her office in the morning to get instructions to pay the $596 I owed to retrieve my car (the amount on the order plus fees), my car had vanished. And possession, as the old cliché goes, is 90% of the law. I believe that Ms. Swift confiscated my car improperly and that I could prove so in court, but that isn’t material; I needed to get my car back.

NYC Marshal Linda Swift

I found my way home, did some research, convinced myself that there really is such a thing as a New York City Marshal and that Linda Swift is one, and was surprised to discover that while New York City Marshals are “city officials” appointed by the Mayor (I presume that Ms. Swift was appointed by current Mayor Michael Bloomberg), they aren’t New York City employees.

New York City Marshals aren’t paid by the city. In fact, they pay the city an annual fee for the privilege of wearing that Marshal’s badge, as well as a percentage of everything they collect. New York City Marshals, pure and simple, are bounty hunters. Who knew?

Here’s the business change part of things:

Tickets Collected on by City Marshal Linda Swift on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg

As a business person and advocate of and consultant on business change, I have no problem whatsoever with the City of New York or anyone else finding inventive ways to do business. That includes collecting debts, and although I fought the older of these two tickets on procedural grounds and believe I was in the right, the city of New York believes otherwise and has put a system in place to boost their collection efforts. I applaud this. This is the kind of thing that businesses must do to succeed.

But Mayor Bloomberg, please understand that the New York City Marshals program, regardless of its financial success, is essentially a form of legalized extortion.

Ms. Swift didn’t state but absolutely implied by her actions that she was a New York City employee and a peace officer. She is neither. Marshal Swift, in the course of distracting me long enough to have my car towed before I had a chance to argue, also stated fact improperly and incompletely when she told me that I could get my car back from her for $596 and failed to reveal she was able to take payment on the spot. By the next morning that number had risen to $724, and the employee with whom I dealt at Marshal Swift’s office as much as told me that I had incurred those extra fees by following Ms. Swift’s instructions to call her office in the morning. Why would Marshall Swift mislead me in that way? Because it created extra revenue for her.

And again, Marshal Swift found my vehicle parked with me in it, presumably by doing a random scan of license plates. And the details she filled in on the Court Order she then printed and under which used to seize my car are both incomplete and inaccurate.

Further, Marshal Swift never even ascertained my identification, which is very likely a due process violation, but I still needed to deal with her pile-on-one-fee-after-another-because-she-says-so office in order to retrieve my vehicle and THEN show multiple pieces of ID to get the car back.

Oh: and to suck some extra fees out of and further inconvenience people they practice this legalized extortion on, Marshal Swift’s office accepts MasterCard, American Express, and Discover credit cards, but not Visa or any kind of debit cards. And if you do use a credit card Marshal Swift hits you with yet another fee to do so, which is a violation of most credit card merchant agreements.

As I said: I don’t believe Marshal Swift broke any laws. And I applaud the City of New York for their ruthless and thorough methods of collecting what they believe to be valid outstanding debts. I even applaud Marshal Linda Swift for skating oh-so-close to the line of impersonating a police officer without actually stepping over that line.

But the New York City Marshal program is operating in a manner that my “legalized extortion” description truly fits. And Mayor Bloomberg, you appoint those Marshals. By failing to more carefully monitor the rules under which the Marshals act you’re making the City of New York and yourself look bad.

Business Change in an era of open communication requires a higher standard of practices than that. I’ve told you that there comes a time when you almost have to succumb to changes like Facebook, The Timeline Version, but this is more important than the silliness of Facebook. And it’s certainly a more important example of legalized extortion than what’s been suggested happens at Yelp.

Put simply, The Office of The Mayor needs to govern business change more honorably than the current tenets governing actions of New York City Marshals encourage.

I wonder how long it will take for a retaliatory tow now that I’ve written this in public?

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25 Comments

  1. Jeff.
    Well you were right about Marshal Swift. And about retaliation- its possible. My car was towed
    twice within a month by Swift. Is it Marshal’s luck or little help from towing company. Think about it….I dont think it was my bad luck only.
    Just check your car throuout once you got it from the pound.Enough said.

  2. I dated a city marshal over 25 years ago. I nearly made the mistake of marrying him. George Airday badge #7 of the Bronx is not only a crook, he is the most evil man I have ever known. The city makes money off these city marshal’s. Airday told me it is one of the highest sources of revenue for the city. Why not allow legalized extortion if if generates revenue. Airday owns property worth millions. He owns a dozen cars and motorcycles. He believes his own message. Since he threw me across his bedroom last month and broke two ribs among other damages, his gun was taken away pending an upcoming trial. He wrote to a friend of mine on Facebook that he had never been so insulted. Imagine the Don of the Bronx without a gun…Where is his power now? He has even managed to convince one or two former friends that he was manipulated by my actions. I imagine that if this man’s soul was sent through an MRI machine, a black trail of soot would be left behind.

    • I feel the same and also my father! I think everyone that had a car towed feels the same. So my thing is I get the fact that you owe tickets and it’s just routine after that you get it towed you see how much it is do have the money it will just keep going up because they are so “nice” that they keeping your car “secured” so you have the judgement ticket then you have towing fee then you have storage fees so the price just go up and up cause it seem they did us a favor by towing your care, so now the price is way high couldn’t even afford to pay the ticket and now there is so extra crap thanks to city Marshall’s cant take out your car now is getting auctioned they sell your car and is for a small small amount of money that doesn’t meet any of the prices so you tell me Mayor Bloomberg city Marshalls is that really fare?

    • Linda you appear to have mental issues given your hysterical comments. As a scorned female it’s better to move to the next fool on your list instead of crying over lost opportunities. Maybe it’s your face or personality, I feel sorry for you!

      • Carl, I’m going to let your comment through, but seriously, dude … why so nasty?

    • I have asked that both my comments be removed from this site. Thank you.

      • Linda, I can’t really do that; your comments lead to other comments, etc., etc., etc. And that guy who thought you were off-base stated an opinion that I believe was unfair, but in my eyes (and I’m guessing those of most readers) it made him look way worse that anything you’ve said makes you look.

        JY

    • That what we think but where do we go to say something cause it really is something wrong and they doing it right in front of our eye and we know it and it just seem as everything it’s ok

  3. City Marshals once appointed stay in the position for life or until indicted.
    The property executions that they enforce are not fair on their face, lacking a court index number etc…..
    The plaintiff which is the Dept of Finance, parking violations operations Directed the City Marshals not to attempt to seize occupied vehicles.
    Marshal Airday was appointed over 20 years ago,
    Someone needs to start an Article 78 in court to have the City of New Yyork correct the property executions and the whole procedure.
    The NYC Law Department advised the Dept of Finance in the past to correct this but the mayors office stepped in and quashed this. So if you FOIL the law department you can obtain a load of information.
    How does a City Marshal seize 70 cars a day and still carry out his other filed cases? He or she is not following the Civil Court Act which gives them the power to enforce judgments which ONLY they can do. They can not deputize persons to carry out this function.
    No one cares because everyone in political office gets a taste from this……that’s why the Sheriffs Office is no longer handling scofflaws in the major bouroughs just S.I. (not enough money to be made) that’s because the Sheriff is an appointed salaried city employee along with all the Deputy Sheriffs they don’t Greece the wheels because they don’t get to keep the statutory fees they are all turned over to the City’s general fund.
    Just look at how much money the City Marshals make, and they say it’s because they work hard.
    Well so do the 100 Deputy Sheriff in the city of new York.
    The Sheriffs Office handles orders of protections,arrest warrants, EDP’s who don’t take there meds, juvenile warrants, no one knows about the Sheriffs Office but you allow these City Marshals to continue to make millions of dollars for themselves and the Mayors Office turns a blind eye.”.the City Marshals pay a lot of money to city politicians to keep the Sheriffs Office from once again being involved in enforcement of these judgments.
    I’m quite sure no NYC Deputy Sheriff has 5 car tons of real estate?
    GOB BLESS GREEDY POLITICIANS

    • Thanks for weighing in, Dawg. Certainly the most detailed description of the NYC City Marshal program I’ve seen!

  4. I could go on and on and on…….. Why bother no one gives a $h!t
    $$$$$$$$$$ makes it happen….. The general public does not know anything about judgments and what a property execution is.
    Why the isn’t the Sheriffs Office” the investigative authority over the private City Marshals?
    The Department of Investigations overseeing the private City Marshal.
    Wouldn’t you utilize the only agency that enforces all civil matters and has the knowledge to root out corruption?
    D.O.I. Is like asking a baker if the carpenter is building something right, what gives…..
    The City Marshals would crap their pants if the Sheriffs Office was directed to oversee their activities……….that would make sense, but we know that what makes sense doesn’t happen in N.Y.C.

    yOwZA………….

    • I hear ya and agree with most of what you’re saying.

      But I think there is a rationale; namely that the city of New York figured out that jobbing this function out to contractors was more effective AND financially viable than expecting results from disaffected city employees. Incentive is a funny thing, that way.

      In other words, it was a business decision to make this bogus City Marshal program/bounty hunter thing responsible for something the city itself found to be beyond its abilities.

      Whaddaya think?

  5. The City Marshal must be present when enforcing the property execution. The employees of the tow company have no legal authority to block vehicles in, or tow the car away until the City Marshal is present.
    I believe the Sheriffs Office was required to have its vendor tow company video tape every vehicle levied upon.
    The private City Marshals did not, why? Because they are private businesses.
    Deputy Sheriffs as peace officers were required to make arrests of individuals who were obstructing the procedure, this was a limited thing.
    Private City Marshals called for NYPD to assist them, but it’s strange how they were waiting for the police to handle the issue ……but cars were still being impounded several blocks away by a Marshal who wasn’t there. That tow driver is guilty of a misdermenor under the NYC Civil Court act.
    A City Marshal is not a peace officer but has a tow company provide him with a crown Victoria with light and sirens which neither the Marshal and definitely not the tow company driver can use.
    But they run light racing through the streets in the name of revenue.
    The Sheriffs Office was required to do it by the book because it was held to a higher legal standard.
    If you provided Deputy Sheriffs with only 1% poundage out of the 5% poundage under C.P.L.R. Section 8013 the poundage that the City Marshal keeps on top of the $45.00 in other statutory fees he keeps it would be a greater incentive for the Deputy Sheriff to also race around the streets putting the publics saftey in danger all for the mighty buck.

    If you want to bring in revenue and don’t give a crap about the legal system or doing it by the books go with the private marshals

    But why did they shove the oldest law enforcement agency in the country under the Department of Finance? The same agency that has PVO. If your not going to utilize your own, then break the Sheriffs Office away from Finance just like is was before 1996.

    I know many individuals from the Sheriffs Office for over 30 years and believe me they would all be glad to be out from under Finance.
    The Sheriffs Offices job is not to produce revenue but to enforce the mandates of the courts…….period

    • You make a couple of great points.

      The whole “what is a peace officer and how are they expected to behave?” question rankles me, too. Especially considering that the NYC Marshals act as though they are that, it’s horrifying.

      As my experience is specifically with Marshal Swift, I’ll say that he/her team walked right up to the line but didn’t cross it. I think I was clear about that in the original article.

      But that’s where my willingness to support the way the City Marshal program on any level ends.

      Remove the fiscal conversation (umm … is government supposed to DO that???), and there’s NO excuse for how the NYC Marshals behave. It’s horrifying.

  6. Good Luck with your future run ins with the Millionaire Marshals Club ;-)

    CHOW……………..

  7. I’ve never seen such a bunch of cry-babies. If you paid your bills and parking tickets, you wouldn’t even know what a city marshal is. They only make money when you don’t pay your debts…so why not outsmart the system….AND PAY WHAT YOU OWE??

    • Pat, that’s a fair comment. Let me point out, though, that my original story was clear that I was happy to do that and that I didn’t actually realize there was a problem—and that my issue wasn’t being caught so much as all the lies and gotchas that Marshal Linda Swift’s office in particular introduced to the situation.

      But you’re right; had I known I owed the money and paid it, nobody would have even seen these words.

    • Yeah I agree with that we get ticket and we have to pay them of course but you don’t think that after is towed there is nothing fishy about how is manipulated? There are adding fees for what? I didn’t tell them do me the favor tow my car …..

  8. Marshal’s only enforce court orders. For u to see the marshal u had to have lost a court case against u. That doesn’t happen over night. U had to first owe a debt. The debt had to become overdue. U had to refuse to pay it when payment was demanded & then there had to be a civil trial which u lost. All along u received some form of notice first. This process went on for a minimum time of more than three months before it went to court. In many instances this process has been going on for many years, some 7 to 8 years. For those that claim u didn’t know, that’s pure nonsense. You selectively chose to forget or ignore it. For many that own cars that is what happens to u when u try to evade the law. U know who u are. U register the car out of state, or to a relative, or at an address that u don’t reside at, hoping that no one will find u. Guess what?! U got found by the marshal. And though the marshal is not a police officer, he can arrest u for obstruction of his job or have the Police do it for him. He has that power by the laws of the State of New York as he is a sworn public officer. U have no legal standing to obstruct even if you are sitting in your car. U can be forcefully removed by the NYPD. If you remove u’r vehicle from the custody of the marshal or sheriff a warrant can be issued for improper use & unlawful removal that will result in possible arrest if you are detained by a police office for some other vehicle infraction. The paper u so fondly think u can challenge, called an ” Execution,” is actually issued to the marshal or sheriff by an attorney, who is also a Court Officer. If you took the time to read it , it clearly explains the Court Officer’s jurisdiction & the power of the marshal or sheriff to seize your car. U clearly were issued a copy of the Court Order which is all that u are entitled to. The original remains with the Marshal’s or Sheriff’s office. The portion for the marshal or sheriff to fill out is part of her duty, but clearly doesn’t void any seizure function as it could clearly be filled in at any time while dealing with u. Your jurisdictional defenses are illusory or of no value. in fact various court challenges have upheld the jurisdiction of both the Court and the Sheriff or Marshal to seize cars with this procedure. As to the fees u pay the marshal that she keeps, those are set by NY State Law. U pay those fees to either the marshal or the sheriff of NYC. They don’t arbitrarily make them up. The NYC Council sets the tow fee. The other fees are mandated by law. There is no absolute right to pay on the spot for cars towed due to a judgment. It is a policy of the City of NY to allow vehicle owners that cooperate with a tow enforcement officer, and do not pose a threat, at the officer’s discretion, to take a payment if the owner demonstrates the full ability to pay on the spot. That means taking the money or payment out of their pocket right then & there. That does not include time to go to the bank. If that occurs the motorist saves a portion of the towing fee only, not all the fees, as they were set by law irrespective of payment. So if u express any inability to pay on the spot you have to pay later at the impound lot. They don ‘t have to tell u that. U told them u couldn’t pay now so u get towed. If u lied or bluffed it’s u’r tough luck. Now for u’r disbelief & outrage at these heavy handed tactics. Back in the 80′s & 90′s. there was a time this City declared a moratorium on towing cars for overdue tickets in judgment for about 5 years. They found that the public just started having blaitant disregard for the law. Payments were low & parking was a nightmare. A program to tow cars requires a large outlay of money, property & manpower. That all costs large sums of money to run & operate. Someone has to pay for that program. The deadbeats are the ones that have to pay not the ordinary taxpayer. Less than one half percent (0.50) of motorists are judgment deadbeats, so it is on u, the deadbeat, to pay for the cost to get u in line with the rest of us law obiding motorists. So just remember that the time u spend arguing over u’r overdue tickets with the marshal u are risking costing the rest of your deadbeat friends more money as the City Council sets the tow company fee based upon the industry costs & expenses which are interdependent upon the number of scofflaws towed and the time necessary to get the cars removed from the scene and secured at the impound lot. Currently the tow fee is set at $185 plus sales tax. As a contrast, the NYPD tow fee for illegally parked car removal is $200. The scofflaw tow fee could be increased to keep up with inflation to the NYPD rate if the Council finds the increase necessary to meet contractors rising costs. At least 30 people are working behind the scenes on each scofflaw tow removal that u, the public, don’t see when the car is towed. It is a large program with many people working for a living. So remember, you weren’t singled out. U caused this to yourself due to one or more reasons. Stop the blame others game. It is your fault. Also remember, you are the marshal or sheriff’s best customer. Most of u will be repeat customers, some many times over. U want to stop the tows, tan go online & pay u’r tickets. And by the way u will have to pay the credit card convenience fee there too. Scofflaws have to pay their own way. There is no subsidy by the City of NY or any one else.

    • Well, I appreciate the long rant. And as I’ve told one or two other commenters the entire “dude you are responsible” thing has some merit.

      Than again, the fact that you gave a fake email address suggests to me that you aren’t the most trustworthy person to be listening to. Funny, huh?

      I mean, Ugottogrowupactlikeamench@REDACTEDxxxxxREDACTED.com? REALLY?

    • City Marshals are not sworn officers and CAN NOT MAKE ARRESTS FOR OBSTRUCTION OF GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION but Deputy Sheriffs can.
      And by the way the PLAINTIFF (Parking Violations) has control of the execution and has given specific instructions that they DO NOT want people removed from their vehicles. So if as you state that City Marshals can make arrests why do they call the NYPD to do it.
      Because the Marshals do not want to even have Peace Officer powers because then they would have to make the arrest and process the prisoner, then go to the local precinct and waste hours and hours of their time. then the would lose another several days in criminal court and so on.
      CITY MARSHALS are a business and work out of store fronts.
      Get your facts straight” TELL IT LIKE IT IS”

      • That’s the funny thing. I didn’t say that Marshals can make arrests; what I said was that they are NOT peace officers and that they walked up (and maybe crossed) to the “I want to scare you and think we are” line.

        The fact that the dude opened my car door and asked demanded that I and my 84-year-old passenger get out of the car probably crosses the line, but again, they never claimed arrest/detainment or any other particular powers. They just did a pretty good impersonation of police.

  9. I hate that bitch she waits at her desk for your car to go over judgement. She is gonna get a great amt of karma.

    • 3times, huh? Yikes.

      The whole NY City Marshal thing really is quite the game, and The lovely Ms. Linda Swift sure does seem to know how to play that game.

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