FBI agent settles case with Bridge & Tunnel Authority over crumpled bills
New York - An argument with a Midtown Tunnel toll collector that began over five crumpled $1 bills has ended with a cool $95,000 payout for a 22-year FBI veteran and his family.
Special Agent Wilfred Rattigan, who is now the bureau’s special attaché in South Africa, yesterday settled his federal lawsuit against the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority over a gunpoint standoff with a toll booth agent.
Rattigan, his fiancé, his sister and her husband where headed into the city through the tunnel from Queens on Aug. 4, 2007 when the argument began. The agent handed the toll collector, TBTA Officer Daniel Bell, the wrinkled dollar bills, but he refused to take them.
"Dude, you can’t come up here with folded money and give it to me," Bell told the agent.
Rattigan and Bell got into an argument and the toll officer called his supervisor over. Rattigan then reached down to get a bag with his bureau ID from the floor of the car.
Bell asked what was in the bag and G-Man said, "A weapon and here’s my identification."
That’s when Bell and his supervisor, Ticel Howard, who had arrived at the toll both drew their weapons. Within seconds the car was surrounded by eight TBTA cops with their guns drawn.
After a tense few moments, one of the officers checked the agent’s ID and confirmed he was with the FBI. The group was then allowed to go on their way through the tunnel.
"Hopefully, the outcome in this case will send a message to officers in the TBTA that they must act responsibly and respectfully toward the customers they serve," said Rattigan’s lawyer Jonathan Moore.
After the incident, Bell was fired and Howard was disciplined by the TBTA.
"This escalated in a manner that was not appropriate for this situation," said TBTA spokeswoman Catherine Sweeney. "This is extremely rare. This was an unfortunate incident."