SF supervisor wants action taken on parking scam

July 15, 2011 1:18:08 AM PDT
It's a scheme that's preposterously easy to pull off, but after you see how it works -- it won't ever work on you.

Police have arrested or made contact with Fofana Mbemba more than 70 times. Just Wednesday, he was caught on an ABC7 surveillance camera, as parking lot attendants grabbed him while he posed as one of them. Mbemba may be the most prolific parking attendant impostor in the city and he seems to be unstoppable.

"It's embarrassing; something is broken in the system," Priority Parking President Aaron Zeff said.

Zeff he has 27 lots in San Francisco and says that thefts at parking lots by impostors like Mbemba are becoming epidemic.

Two months ago, former Mayor Art Agnos pulled into an Embarcadero parking lot.

"There was a man standing here with a white shirt, a little insignia and blue pants and looked just like a parking lot attendant," Agnos said.

Agnos says the imposter asked for $10 and even gave him a fake receipt.

"He said, 'Put this on your windshield and just drive down there,'" Agnos said.

Agnos got back several hours later. On his windshield was ticket for a $15 fine. A real attendant, who voided the fine, told him he had just been conned like many others.

Parking lot owners say it's costing them, and the city, lots of money.

"Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being stolen; customers and visitors to the city are having a terrible experience and the only thing that can be done is for the district attorney to prosecute the individual or individuals," Zeff said.

Mbemba once served two years in prison when his probation was revoked, but almost every time he's arrested, he spends only a few days in jail before he's back working the parking lots.

"Here I am, a former mayor, who can't get, who cannot get any kind of response from the district attorney in terms of dealing with this issue," Agnos said.

District attorney spokesperson Erica Derryck says the law limits what prosecutors can do in this case.

"We can only charge and prosecute somebody for the conduct that they've committed," Derryck said. "In this instance, the conduct is petty theft, which is a misdeamenor charge and only carries a limited sentence."

The district aottrney's office says it will work with the San Francisco Police Department's fraud unit to find a "creative" way to keep Mbemba off the streets.

11 p.m. Update:

After seeing our report, San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi called ABC7 to say he's taking action.

"Just because this crime is considered to be a misdemeanor, repetitively it's beginning to have a cumulative effect," said Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi said will introduce a resolution on Tuesday. He's calling for the District Attorney, Muni and the Port Authority to come up with a plan that will ultimately put an end to the parking attendant scam. One idea is to require parking lot owners to add gates that require a ticket to enter and exit the lot.

"We're on the cusp of being the host of the America's Cup, which is going to be all over San Francisco, especially in the Embarcadero, Port Authority area and we're going to have to be really prepared for that," said Mirkarimi.

What Mirkarimi is introducing on Tuesday will be a non-binding resolution. He hopes that it will eventually evolve into a city ordinance.

ABC7's Lilian Kim contributed to this report

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