A Maryland man who once worked as a parking lot attendant at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum pleaded guilty Friday to stealing $400,000 in visitor parking fees at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.
Meseret Terefe, 36, of Silver Spring, Md., agreed to a plea agreement in federal court last week. Terefe was arrested in August and charged with embezzling and stealing federal monies belonging to the Smithsonian Institution.
Two other parking attendants, Freweyni Mebrahtu, 45, of Sterling, and Genete Yigzu, 46, of Alexandria, were also arrested and charged with the same criminal complaints.
According to a press release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Terefere admitted to stealing parking fees in late 2009 by “unplugging the electronic vehicle counters installed in the parking booths or by not handing customers a serialized parking ticket to display in the car windshield after they paid their entrance fee” while he was an employee of Parking Management, Inc. (PMI). The Udvar-Hazy Center parking lot held approximately 2,000 vehicles in March 2009, the release states.
It’s estimated the Smithsonian lost at least $400,000 over three years due to Terefe’s action.
Terefe faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 14, 2012.