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Anchorage cabbie accused of attempted sexual assault free on bail

Eli Martin

Abdifatah Ali, the Anchorage cab driver charged with attempted sexual assault, has had his chauffeur’s license suspended and will be unable to continue operating his cab until the case is resolved.

Ali, 33, was released from jail on Friday after posting bail of $10,000.

Anchorage Transportation Commissioner Eric Musser confirmed that his department had suspended Ali’s license on Thursday -- although Ali was not “personally notified” of the suspension until Monday morning. Musser said cab drivers’ chauffeur licenses are routinely suspended by the commission if cabbies are arrested. In Ali’s case, the suspension was in effect by the time he posted bail on Friday.

Musser defended the series of background checks put in place by the commission to guard the public against potentially dangerous cab drivers. “We do our best to do proper due diligence,” he said.

Applicants for a chauffeur’s license in Anchorage must submit a criminal history report, pass a drug test, and not be required to register as a sex offender anywhere in the U.S.

Musser said the Transportation Department checks both the federal register of sex offenders and Alaska’s registry before applicants are hired. He conceded that the system relied on applicants’ honesty and on convicted sex offenders registering.

However, the city’s Transportation Department does not verify whether an applicant is authorized to work in the U.S. “We really can’t ask about immigration status,” Musser said. “There is only the requirement that they have the ability to communicate -- written and orally.” Anchorage does require an Alaska driver’s license, and a criminal history report based on a U.S. criminal record.

In response to charges against Yellow Cab driver Chidiebere Nwokorie, Anchorage municipal law since 2011 has allowed a cab driver’s license to be suspended if the driver is charged with a crime. Nwokorie has been accused of multiple sexual assaults against women in his cab.

Nwokorie was arrested in August 2011 and is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for next month. Prior to the change in municipal code, cab drivers charged with sexual assaults could continue working after they had been released on bail and were awaiting trial. 

Contact Eli Martin at eli(at)alaskadispatch.com