NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Dozens of people have been caught in a scheme to make and distribute fake parking placards that resemble the ones given out to law enforcement, authorities say.
Thirty people were arrested Tuesday in the alleged scheme. They face multiple charges, including criminal possession of a forged instrument, offering a false instrument for filing and criminal impersonation.
Last week, authorities arrested another suspect, accused of selling a fake placard for $1,200.
“They deliberately intended to defraud the city by filing copies of fake parking placards, deceiving traffic agents by displaying fake parking placards inside their vehicles, and/or pretending to be public servants by displaying fraudulent parking placards purportedly issued to employees of New York City and federal agencies,” investigators announced Tuesday afternoon.
The indictments are the result of a joint investigation between the Manhattan district attorney’s office the Department of Investigation and the NYPD.
One by one, the defendants — cuffed and chained together — pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
“I definitely think it’s a bit much,” said Gregory Esposito, who represents one of the alleged placard abusers, Andre Bagdinoff. “Whether true or not, it’s not the crime of the century.”
However, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters was happy to make examples of them.
“When someone in a Mercedes rolls into a parking space that was designated for people with disabilities or for ambulates, they are stealing from New Yorkers,” he told Silverman, adding that some used copies of their fake placards to fight parking tickets.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD previously promised to crack down on the abuse of parking placards – both of the real and fake varieties.
As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, in March, the NYPD, the Department of Investigation, the Department of Transportation, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office began investigating the fraudulent placards.
Peters said the misuse of placards creates a safety issue within the city.
“For folks with disabilities who need to get into medical facilities to get to work, so this is a danger,” he said.
In one case, Peters said the fraudulent FEMA placard was very easy to spot. It said at the bottom, ‘it is a misdemeanor to duplicate’ when it’s actually a felony.
Mayor de Blasio commented on the arrests in late May when he created the task force to crackdown on placard misuse.
“Anyone who inappropriately uses a placard or fabricates a placard will pay the price,” he said.
Peters said the investigation is far from over. Agencies involved will also wok on using technology to make it more difficult for offenders.