Parking-scam investigation a ‘cold case’ | AspenTimes.com

Parking-scam investigation a ‘cold case’

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

An abundance of data, criminal-case prioritization and the fact that responsibilities have changed hands all mean the Aspen Police Department’s investigation into a recent scam involving the city’s parking meters is essentially a “cold case” file, according to an official.

Department spokeswoman Blair Weyer said Tuesday that the investigation changed hands internally in January when Detective Jeff Fain took over for patrol officers Walter Chi and Ian MacAyeal. The reasoning was that officers don’t have the time needed to dedicate to such a case while balancing day-to-day responsibilities.

The department is requesting data for around 200 credit cards that accounted for 67,000 declined transactions between September 2013 and November 2014. The abundance of information, along with the fact that more pressing cases — the recent increase in credit-card fraud, for instance — take precedence over the parking investigation, means a longer timeline. Weyer said the investigation qualifies as “more of a cold case” at this point.

“One thing we’ve been struggling with is it’s not the No. 1 case that they’re dealing with. They have other investigations going on concurrently,” Weyer said. “It’s not something they’ve completely abandoned by any means, but things that are a little more time sensitive generally take precedence.”

As the investigation passes the six-month mark since it began, Weyer said it wouldn’t be surprising if investigators are working for more than a year on the case. Fain agreed with this estimate, telling Weyer that it could extend almost another year mainly because of the length of time it takes to acquire the necessary records.

Police are working with Toronto-based vendor Precise Parklink Inc., which manufactured the faulty parking meters, as well as Aspen’s Finance and Parking departments to determine the total amount of loss associated with the scam. Between 2010 and 2014, parkers exploited the meters by using maxed-out, prepaid debit cards. According to Finance records, declined transactions totaled between $600,000 and $800,000 during that time period. Third party auditor Colorado Independent Consultants Network estimates the actual loss from the parking scam was about $230,000, including $50,000 in processing fees. That amount was culled from four data models, which had estimates that ranged between $0 and about $348,000.

“If information he gets from these orders to produce is more telling, maybe it’ll be quicker or maybe we could be getting nothing useable,” Weyer said. “If that’s the case, there’s only so many lengths you can go to.”

On Tuesday, Fain had planned to deliver eight orders to produce to the district attorney’s office that cover approximately 200 cards. He estimates that he spends anywhere from zero to 10 hours a week working on this case, depending on his work load, according to Weyer.

“For example, once he sends off these orders, he won’t be able to do much until he receives the information,” Weyer wrote in an email.

Police have compiled a list of debit cards that registered the most declined transactions between September 2013 and November 2014, with the No. 1 card racking up $7,035 in unpaid parking and 177 cards each posting amounts more than $1,000.

herk@aspentimes.com


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