APD arrest five men in parking-scam sting

More parking lot scams are being reported in Downtown Austin. Austin Police recently arrested five people for pretending to be parking lot attendants.

You park, you pay: it should be that simple. Now you have to make sure your money is going into the right hands.

"They tell you they're in charge of the parking lot and they give you an invalid ticket they received from another car or someone else. Or it's probably a luggage pass from somewhere like the airport," says Sgt. James Dixon, Austin Police Department.

Austin Police frequently conduct undercover stings at downtown parking lots. Last Thursday, they arrested five people.

38-year-old Joel Tanguma was caught on the 400 block of East 7th Street after taking a parking ticket from one undercover officer and re-selling it to another. Those who park there have seen it happen before.

"Actually, there was one time where someone asked me for my parking sticker when I was about to leave and it was late at night. I didn't really think much of it then," says Steven Lee, Austin driver.

61-year-old Nathan Jefferson was caught at the parking lot in the 400 block of East 8th Street.

He was posing as an attendant with a yellow vest and carrying around a flashlight. Police say he had about ten expired and invalid tickets on him that he was trying to re-sell.

"I'd be really upset if it happened to me. It's just not fair and I don't know how they police it without actually coming and looking every night," said.

The general manager of LAZ Parking says this type of scam has been going on for about 30 years now. He says there's an imposter on his downtown parking lot every week. Some have been arrested before and continue to commit the crime.

"You should always look for a uniform and see that the uniform matches the corporate sign on the lot and that if they do give you a ticket, it needs to match the name on the uniform. A lot of times they're giving out valet tickets," says Mike Ayoub, general manager, LAZ Parking.

If you don't double check, you could wind up getting towed.

The Austin Police Department have arrested and charged Nathan Jefferson, 61, and Noel Tanguma, 38, with Theft by deception after the two men posed as parking lot attendants.

According to police, they arrested Jefferson and Tanguma during the course of undercover stings. The two suspects posed as parking lot attendants, taking money from drivers, and handing out fake tags for their windows.

According to police, Jefferson was arrested after he flagged down undercover police at a parking lot on the 400 block of E. 8th St. 

Police said Jefferson, who was wearing a yellow vest and holding a flashlight, charged them $10 to park and directed them into in a handicap parking space. Jefferson then placed "a parking stub", which was later identified as an unknown claim check, in their windshield.

According to police, Jefferson has two prior theft convictions, one in 2006 in Travis County, and another back in 1999 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tanguma, according to police, was running a similar scam on the 400 block of E. 7th St.

According to police, Tanguma waived down undercover officers and helped them pay for a parking ticket, a non-transferrable ticket, at a pay station however requested the stub back after they returned so he could give it to someone else.

Police said they gave the ticket back to Tanguma who later sold it to another undercover officer for $5, instead of the $10 required at that parking lot.

According to police, Tanguma had several prior convictions for theft in Travis County back in December 2008 and January 2009.

Both suspects were taken to Travis County Jail and are being held on $10,000 bail.

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