Former Smithsonian Parking Attendant Ordered to Pay $1.4 Million Over Stolen Fees

Friday, Jul 19, 2013  |  Updated 11:14 AM EDT
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The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

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A former parking lot attendant at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center has been sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution for his role in a conspiracy to steal that amount in visitor parking fees.

Abeselom Hailemariam, 33, of Alexandria, pleaded guilty April 19 to conspiracy to commit theft of public money.

Hailemariam is the third person to be sentenced in the scheme, authorities announced Friday.

Between March 2009 and August 2012, Hailemariam worked as a location manager for Parking Management Inc. (PMI), a D.C.-based company contracted by the Smithsonian to manage its 2,000-vehicle parking lot at the Air & Space Museum outpost in Chantilly, Va.

Visitors pay $15 per vehicle to park in the lot.

Authorities estimate that the scheme netted its participants about $1,383,195 from fees collected from 92,213 museum visitors.

The booth attendants participating in the scheme allegedly withheld parking ticket stubs from drivers, unplugged electronic vehicle counters, and gave Hailemariam a portion of their earnings.

Hailemariam submitted falsified reports to PMI, authorities said, and also ordered booth attendants to stop stealing at certain times when he thought they could get caught.

Former PMI employees Meseret Terefe, 37, of Silver Spring, Md., and Freweyni Mebrahtu, 46, of Sterling, Va., were previously sentenced to 20 months and 27 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the scheme.

Hailemariam will have three years of supervised release after his jail sentence.

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