By Dave Savini and Michele Youngerman
CHICAGO (CBS) – Unsuspecting drivers trying to find parking outside city sports venues are getting caught up in a costly scam. First they pay to park, then they get stuck paying parking tickets.READ MORE: Supply Chain Issues: How Are Global Shortages Affecting Local Customers?
Deena Mora found herself in this parking trap outside Guaranteed Rate Field this summer while she and her husband attended the White Sox – Chicago Cubs Crosstown Classic.
“So there was an arrow, and it said White Sox parking, so we took that,” said Mora who describes the fake parking attendants wearing the orange and yellow vests. “And they had those flashlights waving for people for parking.”
“The street was full of cars,” said Mora. “They were all parked in a single line and then, at night.”
CBS 2 Investigators found the same parking scam happening months later as the White Sox faced off against the Houston Astros during the playoffs.
Just a few blocks away from the stadium, a man dressed in a yellow jacket, carried a Chicago White Sox parking sign, set it up, and lured in people needing a spot.
There was a team of conmen across the area directing drivers to unknowingly park illegally. One man can be seen holding a stack of parking permits he had no right to sell.
At least 60 cars had these permits placed on dashboards Each one cost $40. That means, in about an hour, these conmen collected about $2,400.
All of this was happening while Chicago police officers, a Chicago Department of Revenue employee and deputies from the Cook County Sheriff’s office, patrolled the area.
“I think they shouldn’t let them scam people,” said Mora frustrated the officers did not arrest these men.
A Cook County Sheriff’s deputy did take some action. A spokesman said the deputy took some permits away and gave those to the Department of Revenue employee. The deputy then had to continue his assignment related to carjackings.
This scheme is happening at other sporting venues too. It has been happening in different forms for years in Chicago. Outside of a Chicago Blackhawks game at the United Center, before the pandemic in 2019, we found a team of men operating the same scheme.
“Twenty, easy out,” said one man selling a parking permit promising drivers won’t get stuck in traffic when fans leave the game. “As long as you got this paper, you’re good.”
Kathy Sladek and her husband were ripped off in this same scheme. She reads what the permit they bought says, “Single event parking for the Greater West Side area”.
Karl Rojek fell victim to this, on the same night as Sladek.
“It’s a fake pass,” said Rojek about the parking permit he bought and thought it was legitimate. “He puts the permit in my window. Waves me to the next guy. The next guy parks me over on the side of the street.”READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming?
We went undercover at the United Center and caught scammers running the same operation – using bright vests and flashlights, directing traffic and selling fake parking permits. All of it happening in plain sight.
“Cops everywhere. That’s why it seems legitimate. I mean you wouldn’t think twice about parking there,” said Karl Rojek.
As we drove up to these conmen, we’re told to pay $20 and park on the street. One man brags about running this operation for 14 years.
“Been working down here for 14 years, right down here,” he said.
This long-running scam has cost unsuspecting drivers. After Karl Rojek, Kathy Sladek and Deena Mora each paid for bogus permits, they then each got stuck with a $75 parking ticket from the city.
“Came out after the Blackhawks game. I had a parking ticket from the City of Chicago,” said Rojek. “I walked down the line just to see if it was just me or not. Every single car that parked there, had a ticket.”
“And it’s just aggravating that the police aren’t trying to go after the guys that are committing this fraud,” said Sladek. “Instead they’re gaining income by giving everybody tickets.”
Back at Guaranteed Rate Field, we told officers about the scam being committed by the team of men. Chicago officers just drove away.
With no one stopping them, and cars still rolling in, we decided to ask the men about their operation.
“I ain’t selling (expletive),” said one man as he walked away.
Another one, the man we found carrying the White Sox parking sign, said, “I don’t think you all know where you all at. I’ll get you where you’re living.”
The fine for re-selling these permits is as much as $1,500 for each violation.
Cook County Sheriff’s Department Statement:
On October 12, Sheriff’s Police were assigned to support Illinois State Police patrols on the Dan Ryan Expressway and also provide additional presence in the area of Guaranteed Rate Field to discourage carjackings. While in the area, officers noticed the car parking operation and notified a Chicago Department of Revenue employee who was on scene before continuing to conduct their assignments. One of the officer’s took some of the permits from the individuals and asked the Department of Revenue employee if the permits were legitimate. The Department of Revenue employee took the permits from the officer and confirmed they were legitimate but are not supposed to be sold. Please contact the Chicago Department of Revenue or the Chicago Police Department for questions about what, if any, action was taken in response to the car parking operation.
A Chicago Police Department spokesman said “This matter is under Investigation”.MORE NEWS: Joe And Son's Olive Oils Celebrate 10 Years In South Tampa