By Lauren Victory

EVANSTON (CBS) — What’s in a name?

A lot.

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Enough to keep an Evanston man from earning money as a rideshare driver. He says the City of Chicago mixed him up with another guy with a similar name who owes thousands in old tickets.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory tried to make sense of this mess.

Meeting people is Gary Taylor’s favorite part of being a rideshare driver. He has five stars and more than 12,000 trips completed through Uber in three years. That’s 12,000 rides even with a 14-month pause to stay safe during the pandemic.

“I’m fully vaccinated. I’m all set to hit the road. And then this,” said Taylor who was back to driving full time until last week when his gig ended abruptly.

“Account needs attention,” his Uber app tells him now. Taylor says it’s not his fault.

Rideshare companies don’t let drivers log on until they cough up cash for City of Chicago fines. The problem: Taylor says the unpaid tickets are not his.

“Within 15 feet of fire hydrant, safety belts required,” he read off the list the alleged violations. “Then there’s a notice of seizure. Nothing of mine has ever been seized.”

Most infractions are labeled “license suspended” but Taylor said he’s never had a license suspension. He also points out the license plate on the violations doesn’t belong to him. The final straw: Gary Taylor received a reminder email about the fines but the email was addressed to someone named Garnell Taylor.

“I’m like who is this?” Taylor said. “How were Garnell’s tickets attached to me? Is it because G-A-R and Taylor?”

The reason for the Chicago’s Department of Finance technical mix-up is still a mystery, but a 2019 email sent to Taylor titled “Lyft/Uber/Via Driver Account Deactivation Warning” may have complicated the case.

“If you’re deactivated, you can’t make money,” said Taylor, who wanted to avoid that and took care of the $170 in fines the 2019 email told him he owed. The violations in question were at least 20 years old. Taylor assumed the City had the right guy. He said he later figured out two of three tickets paid weren’t his.

“That tied this bogus license plate to me because I paid it once,” said Taylor, who is requesting the City uncouple his account from Garnell Taylor’s and/or whoever else is associated with the license plate that’s now racked up nearly $2,000 in more tickets.

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Otherwise, Taylor is left without a day job because of the rideshare rule preventing him from logging on until resolving fines.

“This is not my family’s livelihood. What if it was?” asks Taylor, who is grateful that he doesn’t rely on rideshare. However, he misses the work and worries about other people that might be in a similar predicament with the city.

CBS 2 tried to reach Garnell Taylor but we were unable to connect with him. We also reached out to the Finance Department, which issued the following responses to our questions:

How did the Department of Finance confuse/merge Gary and Garnell? What steps does the Department take to ensure people with similar names do not get confused in the system?

A representative from the collection firms inadvertently mismatched tickets that belonged to Garnell Taylor to Gary Taylor due to the similar name.

Why is Gary being sent tickets for a license plate number (which is also inactive) that does not belong to him?

In 1996, Gary Taylor was issued Ticket 0018906080, but it remains unpaid. The collection firm contacted him about it because they found a new address or contact information.

How did the City associate Gary’s email address with Garnell?

The email address was associated when Garnell Taylor’s tickets were merged with Gary Taylor’s tickets.

For the tickets that Gary did pay, and that do not belong to him, will he be refunded? Will the other tickets be disassociated with him?

Garnell Taylor’s tickets have been removed from Gary Taylor’s Driver’s License Number. The City has expedited a refund for Gary Taylor. Mr. Taylor’s credit card will be refunded $135.00. He will receive the refund within the next 2-3 days.

Will be taken off the “do not drive list” since these tickets don’t belong to him and so he can resume driving with Lyft?/

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The City has notified Lyft to immediately onboard Gary Taylor.

Lauren Victory