MANHATTAN — The Department of Investigation put the brakes on a group of motorists — including several from out of state — who were allegedly using fake New York City Housing Authority parking permits at public housing lots, authorities said.
At least one of the nine suspects, who hail from as far away as Philadelphia, wanted to avoid getting dinged in a pay lot nearby, DOI officials said.
The charges are the result of a probe that also led to the arrest of five other people in December.
"These motorists may have thought they successfully bypassed the expense of parking in New York City," DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement. "But using bogus city parking permits to park illegally was instead a one-way street to criminal charges."
The investigation began last year after the DOI found one fraudulent parking permit in use. That discovery prompted a sweep of employee and residential parking lots at nearly 100 NYCHA public housing developments around the city.
In the latest round of arrests, DOI investigators found fake NYCHA parking permits displayed in vehicles parked at five public housing developments, including the J.P. Mitchel Houses in the Bronx, the James Weldon Johnson Houses in East Harlem, the Frederick Douglass Houses on the Upper West Side, Martin Luther King Jr. Towers in East Harlem and the Alfred E. Smith Houses on the Lower East Side.
NYCHA issues parking permits to employees, but residents can apply for a limited number of permits for an annual fee of between $60 and $272. Non-residents can also request permits for $150 to $650.
Investigators said the phony permits were likely computer-generated and were identifiable based on the use of different colored backgrounds than real permits and invalid permit numbers.
None of those individuals charged with using fraudulent parking permits were employees of NYCHA, but some were NYCHA residents, a DOI spokeswoman confirmed. Some worked in the area.
The nine individuals arrested on Tuesday include Denise Lopez, 40, of the Lower East Side; Augustin Trinidad, 34, of the Bronx; Fina Coca Cleto, 31, of Philadelphia; Ali Yafai, 30, of the Bronx; Francelia Villalona, 47, of Clifton, N.J.; Craig Crump, 44, of the Bronx; Wilfredo Gordon, 56, of the Bronx; Jose Echevarria, 51, of the Bronx; and Angela Sewer, 43, of Union, N.J.
They were each charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a misdemeanor.
A DOI spokeswoman also added that the names have been passed along to NYCHA so the authority can take punitive action if it sees fit.