Saturday, July 27, 2013

Udvar-Hazy parking attendant Abeselom Hailemariam gets 40 months in $1.4 million theft scheme

The last of three Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center parking attendants convicted of stealing $1.4 million in visitor-parking fees was sentenced today to more than three years in prison.

Abeselom Hailemariam, 33, of Alexandria, was sentenced to 40 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay approximately $1.4 million in restitution for his role in a conspiracy to steal the same amount in visitor-parking fees from the Smithsonian Institution museum in Chantilly.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III handed down the sentence.

Hailemariam pleaded guilty on April 19 to conspiracy to commit theft of public money. He's the third person to be sentenced for participating in the scheme.

Meseret Terefe, 37, of Silver Spring, Md. and Freweyni Mebrahtu, 46, of Sterling, have been sentenced to 20 months and 27 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the thefts.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office from March 2009 to August 2012, Hailemariam was a full-time location manager for Parking Management Inc. (“PMI”), a D.C. based firm which held a contract with the Smithsonian to manage its 2,000-vehicle parking lot.

During that time, Hailemariam participated in a scheme to steal parking revenues and began sharing in the stolen money taken by the PMI booth attendants.

Under Hailemariam’s approval, the booth attendants withheld parking ticket stubs from customers and unplugged electronic vehicle counters in the entrance booths, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Hailemariam created and submitted false operations reports to PMI, which were provided to the Smithsonian. The other booth attendants paid Hailemariam a share of the stolen money at the end of the day by bundling unreported cash with their shift summary reports.

Hailemariam also gave instructions to conspiring booth attendants to stop stealing at certain times when he believed the risk of getting caught was too high.

Based on the $15 entrance fee, it's estimated that Hailemariam helped to steal from at least 92,213 museum visitors.