LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein caught people selling disabled parking placards and making big money without the DMV ever knowing.
It's like VIP parking, but for a price.
Drivers who have a disabled parking placard displayed in their windshields don't have to feed the meter and can park in certain specially designated parking spots. It's a privilege reserved only for people with a disability.
But fraudulent use is everywhere. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation estimates it loses $6 million a year because of disabled placard abuse.
Some people like Sergio Arriola in Covina are cashing in on the trend.
Goldstein met with Arriola in response to an ad on Craigslist touting "Two years of VIP parking no matter where you go." It's one of several ads seen online from various sellers.
For $300 apiece, Arriola said he could obtain two placards from a friend at the DMV. CBS2 handed over the cash.
Sure enough, 12 days later, without waiting in any lines at the DMV or proving he had a disability, Goldstein received two placards from Arriola in a DMV envelope, good for two years of free parking.
"Did your friend get you the envelope, too?" the CBS2 investigative team asked.
"Yeah," Arriola replied.
CBS2 then asked if his friend could get another one.
"As soon as I hear something from him, I'll hit you up," Arriola said.
Later that day, he sent a text message to CBS2 that read, "In luck, he got it. ... He'll drop it off by 6."
In a meeting two days later, Arriola pulled the placard out of his pocket and offered it for sale, according to Goldstein.
When he revealed his identity, Arriola was done talking.
"Get this camera out of my face," he said.
Goldstein traced the numbers on the last placard and found it didn't come from a friend at the DMV but rather a car parked in a lot just up the block from where CBS2 met with Arriola.
Chris Lazalde of Rancho Cucamonga parked his Honda at the North Woods Inn in Covina while having lunch with his mom, but when he came out, he found his window broken and one thing missing.
"This look familiar?" Goldstein asked him.
"Yes, that's my mom's placard," Lazalde said. "The only thing stolen was the placard. Everything else was in the car."
But when confronted by Goldstein, Arriola denied stealing the placard.
Goldstein traced two other placards to a woman who lives with Arriola's mother. A third placard renewed this year was found to be registered to a man who died in 1999.
When asked how it's possible for someone who died years ago to receive a renewal in the mail, DMV Deputy Chief of Investigations Vito Scattaglia says it's all a matter of routine.
"Every placard that is issued is not automatically checked to see if that person is still alive and well," Scattaglia said.
So, exactly how many placards are out there for people who may have passed away?
"I don't know the number," he said.
Goldstein and his team met with a man named Ken in Pasadena after responding to an ad that read, "Stop wasting your time looking for parking."
Ken wanted $200 for his placard, which he said was sent to him for his aunt who moved out of town.
"She ended up getting another one, so we had that one as an extra," he said.
Ken took the cash, only to later admit to Goldstein that he shouldn't have.
"Disabled people use this to get around," Goldstein said.
"I understand that," Ken replied.
Scattaglia says he's not surprised by the demand for placards.
"There's a market out there for them," Scattaglia said. "And where there's a market, there are those taking advantage of the system."
All of the placards CBS2 purchased will be turned over to the DMV.
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