(CBS) — They hide around corners and in mall parking lots and swoop in to boot the vehicles of unsuspecting motorists. Police say it is all a scam to get fast cash.
2 Investigator Dave Savini exposes an alleged illegal operation that preyed on people from Chicago and the suburbs.
Truck driver Shamarre Stewart parked his truck and ended up with a boot on his left rear tire.
LaToya Forrester was booted in Joliet while parked in a strip mall parking spot reserved for drivers with disabilities. Both say they were scam victims.
“A large scale scam,” says Forrester. “And I’m sure one that is very profitable to them.”
They were booted by a man named James Chard, an alleged thief running MC Parking. He is accused of immobilizing vehicles parked in strip malls and other lots, even when there is no official contract or permission to boot cars.
“This is criminal. This is theft,” Forrester says. “They stole $190 from me.”
Stewart says Chard wanted $1,000 to take the boot off of his truck. He says Chard is a con artist who needs to be imprisoned because Chard hung signs up after Stewart parked and walked away from his rig.
“If I didn’t give it to him, he said he was going to tow it, and it was going to be $1,000 for the tow and $1,000 for the boot,” Stewart says.
The 2 Investigators dug into James Chard’s booting operation and found the self-proclaimed boot bandit charged $50,000 in fines in suburban Lansing alone this summer.
He also allegedly left a trail of boot victims in Bolingbrook, Joliet, Forest Park, Naperville, Berwyn, Matteson, Markham and Chicago.
Tom Leoni and Therese Blank were booted while eating dinner at a Lansing restaurant.
“This is like getting robbed without a gun,” says Leoni, who was charged $190. “This is wrong.”
Lansing Police agreed and during the 2 Investigation, they arrested Chard on multiple felony charges. Police said he hung signs in lots without contracts or permission. They confiscated his signs, booting devices and receipts.
Chard, who declined comment when confronted by Savini, has been booting vehicles for several years, police say. He is due in court next month.
Victims might get their money back because, when he was arrested, police seized a large amount of cash. Authorities say drivers who get booted in private parking lots should demand to see a written contract and call 9-1-1 to ask for police assistance.
There are no state regulations on booting.