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Flushing drivers bash owner over extortion claims

A group of Flushing limo drivers and more than two dozen others protested outside Luo and Co. last Thursday, alleging the company’s leader had engaged in “gang” tactics by threatening, assaulting and extorting drivers employed at the collective of taxi and limousine companies.

Four former drivers from the company were joined by the Chinese Staff & Workers Association and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops for the protest, which called for legal charges to be filed against the company’s owner, Tony Luo.

“Tony Luo has threatened his workers using gang violence, using bribery, using fraud,” said CSWA spokeswoman Josephine Lee. “Drivers have been again and again beaten up by Luo and his associates if they don’t pay so-called protection fees. Where is the justice?”

According to court papers, Luo is currently facing charges of misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking an employee, Guoqiang He, with a handheld radio.

But other drivers allege Luo’s violence is more widespread.

The drivers say while working for Luo and Co. over the last several years they were allegedly forced to pay a weekly “protection fee,” in some cases several hundred dollars, in order to continue working for the company. If they did not, Luo or his associates would allegedly assault them, according to Han Dong Chen, who worked for Luo last year.

“Because I refused I got beaten up by Tony Luo,” Chen said. “I have a blood clot in my liver now and I have not been able to return to work.”

Calls to Luo and Co.’s headquarters were not returned for comment. A call to Luo’s attorney, Joel Cohen, was also not immediately returned.

The workers said they have contacted the Queens district attorney, the U.S. attorney and the office of City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) about the attacks, but no one has responded.

“These are supposed to be our public officials,” Lee said, noting Liu is head of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “Look at what has happened to the neighborhood under the administration of John Liu.”

Chiyi Zhang, another driver who worked for Luo from 2004 until July, said he only wants justice for what he suffered.

“I want to see Tony Luo go to jail and for him to pay back the money he stole from us,” he said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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