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Woman admits to stealing No. Va. parking money

A 45-year-old woman who had worked as a parking lot attendant in Northern Virginia has admitted to the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking revenues.

The woman entered her guilty plea in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. In September, a 36-year-old former colleague and manager of the accused also admitted to taking the money from the parking lot company.

The woman had worked as a parking-lot attendant at the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, from March 2009 until July 2012. The center is an annex of the National Air and Space Museum.

She said that she began walking off with the parking entrance fees in October 2009. Visitors paid $15 to park as they entered the museum lot. She said devised two schemes by which she would take the money.

One way she stole the money was by unplugging the electronic vehicle counter so that the car would not be counted, meaning lot operators would not expect the parking fee. Or, she said, once the visitor paid, she would not issue a parking ticket as proof of purchase. The parking tickets bore consecutive numbers.

By doing so, the woman was able to keep the money, and authorities said she pocketed thousands of dollars each week through this method. She said she also shared her tips with other parking lot attendants and gave a cut of her proceeds to the manager of the lot.

Authorities arrested the woman on Aug. 4 and estimated her total haul over the three-year period at $400,000. After her plea, the court set her sentencing for Jan. 18, 2013, and she faces as long as 10 years in prison.

By pleading guilty, the woman spared herself from going through a trial, at which point the co-workers to whom she discussed stealing the fees could have testified against her.

Source: WUSA9, "Freweyni Mebrahtu of Sterling Va, Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Parking Lot Attendant, Pleads Guilty To Stealing $400,000 In Parking Fees," Nov. 2, 2012

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