CHICAGO (CBS) — A threatening new twist to an old scam is now causing fear among drivers heading to the ballpark.
An organized team of of thieves on motorized scooters have been descending on side roads and Dan Ryan expressway exit ramps around Guaranteed Rate Field.
These men wearing yellow vests, stop drivers heading to White Sox games. They act like official parking attendants and push drivers into turning over $40.
Sox fans who have refused to pay up say they were accosted by the scammers.
Ryan and Jacky Cauley where heading to a Chicago White Sox game on July 30, 2022, when a group of conmen on scooters surrounded their car.
“We didn’t see any police nearby, so that made us even more nervous,” said Jacky Cauley about the men demanding cash to park. “And they won’t let you turn if you don’t pay the money.”
“It’s kind of an extortion in a way,” said Ryan Cauley as he described how the operation worked. “They had the yellow vests on, and they had a fist full of cash, which give them the appearance they are legit.”
Using cameras on the ground and a drone in the sky, the CBS 2 Investigators tailed the conmen. Before the game, they assembled in a Wentworth Gardens parking lot. One man stood out — appearing to be the leader. He shouted orders, and continued seemingly to direct the men as they approached vehicles along the highway exit ramps.
The Cauleys say a group stopped them as they tried to turn by a church that sits near the official entrance to a White Sox parking lot.
Ryan describes the attempt to shake him down as they were late for the game. He said a scammer said: “There’s no spots left. If you want to get a spot, you got to give me the money now.”
But the couple noticed signs near the ballpark that said only credit and debit card payments will be accepted. The couple knew they were being targeted in a scam, refused to pay, and then feared for their safety as the conmen became aggressive.
“He went around to my side of the vehicle,” said Jacky. “And he was swearing at Ryan because Ryan said no. And at that point, he started swearing very loudly and he started kicking the car.” The Cauleys decided at that point to turn around and go home.
Other fans have reported their cars being blocked, kicked or punched. One woman told a traffic aide she was spit on when she refused to pay. This type of aggressive behavior seems to be a new tactic added on to an old fake-parking-attendant scam.
In 2021, the CBS 2 Investigators exposed a different team of fake parking attendants ripping off drivers. They were selling bogus parking stickers for the street and then drivers got hit with parking tickets.
It happened to Deena Mora outside Guaranteed Rate Field during the summer of 2021.
“So there was an arrow, and it said White Sox parking, so we took that,” said Mora, who describes the fake parking attendants wearing the orange and yellow vests. “And they had those flashlights waving for people for parking.”
“The street was full of cars,” Mora continued.
The conmen placed what drivers believed were permits on at least 60 cars’ dashboards. Each one cost $40. That means in about an hour, these conmen collected about $2,400.
All of this was happening while police officers were nearby.
“I think they shouldn’t let them scam people,” said Mora, frustrated the officers did not arrest these men.
This scheme has been happening for years at other sporting venues too. Karl Rojek fell victim to the scam last year when he went to the United Center for a Blackhawks game.
“He puts the permit in my window. Waves me to the next guy. The next guy parks me over on the side of the street,” said Rojek. “Cops everywhere. That’s why it seems legitimate. I mean you wouldn’t think twice about parking there.”
He got stuck with a $75 parking ticket.
“Came out after the Blackhawks game. I had a parking ticket from the City of Chicago,” said Rojek. “I walked down the line just to see if it was just me or not. Every single car that parked there, had a ticket.”
“And it’s just aggravating that the police aren’t trying to go after the guys that are committing this fraud,” said Sladek. “Instead they’re gaining income by giving everybody tickets.”
Following our investigation in 2021, The White Sox took action. The team removed all signs around the ballpark which say you could use cash to park. Now only credit and debit cards are accepted. The team also set up signs warning drivers to, “Say no to scammers”. Though we found the crew ripping off drivers right in front of them.
Scott Reifert, the White Sox vice president of communications, says they also have requested more police presence this season to protect fans.
“We hear from a lot of people who are mad about it,” said Reifert.
Despite the team’s actions this season, conmen on scooters continue operating freely.
“These are scammers. They are trying to take your money. They are trying to bully you; trying to get you to roll down a window and take your money,” said Reifert. “We’ve got to make it as difficult as we can for them, as challenging — and we’ve got to make the punishment be there.”
White Sox officials reached out to the CBS 2 Investigators this summer, asking us to return to the ballpark and help stop the conmen. That’s because last year when police failed to stop the the scammers, we confronted the crew and they scattered.
“I ain’t selling (expletive),” said one scammer as he took off from the scene.
Back then, we also caught another man using an official White Sox parking sign to lure in fans. When confronted he said, “I don’t think you all know where you all at. I’ll get you where you’re living.”
“I think they are getting desperate,” said Ryan Cauley. “You knocked them out of one area and then another.”
We tracked down this latest group of scammers using our drone back in August. When the conmen saw it, they scattered.
White Sox officials say this latest crew also is creating diversions to get police away from the ballpark. Sox officials said in one case, a 911 call was made claiming an off duty officer was shot a few blocks away — so as to draw police away so they could continue running their scam.
For the Cauleys, this incident was especially hard because their 2-year-old son, Jack, was in the car as it was being kicked and the men yelled obscenities.
“I know he saw that there was child there,” said Jacky. “I felt afraid and, I didn’t want anything to happen to our son.”
Their son’s first outing to a ballgame may be one the last he goes to for a while.
“I’m still kind of afraid to go back,” said Jacky. “I don’t think will.”
The Chicago Police Department released the following statement on Wednesday:
“The Chicago Police Department is aware of the illegal parking scams occurring in the area of the stadium. To combat the issue, the 9th District has been and continues to conduct strict enforcement of the law, with specific missions focusing on this illegal activity. Additionally, there are extra police resources during game days. The district commander is also in regular communication with the White Sox organization as we continue working to improve safety during game days.
“Our officers will continue to remain visible and present in the area to prevent illegal activity in the area.”
Source : https://www.cbsnews.com/chicago/news/the-parking-scam/