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    Sterling woman to serve 27 months for Udvar-Havy thefts

    A Sterling woman who was part of a trio of Udvar-Hazy parking attendants who stole thousands in visitor parking fees was sentenced today to 27 months in prison.

    Freweyni Mebrahtu, 46, will also serve three years of supervised release following her prison stint for her part in stealing nearly $900,000 when she was employed by Parking Management Inc., (PMI), the company contracted to manage parking services at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.

    Mebrahtu was sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

    Mebrahtu pleaded guilty Nov. 1 to theft of public money. At sentencing, she was ordered to pay $895,680 in restitution and to forfeit an equal amount in the form of a money judgment in favor of the United States.

    Mebrahtu was a full-time employee of PMI, which managed the 2,000-vehicle parking lot at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Over the course of three years, Mebrahtu stole cash entrance fees paid by tens of thousands of museum visitors.

    She stole upwards of $4,000 in a single day by failing to hand out parking ticket stubs to customers and unplugging an electronic vehicle counter that measured vehicle traffic. At the end of each shift, Mebrahtu would submit a daily work summary to PMI that repeatedly under-reported the true number of vehicles that had entered the parking lot through her lane, according to court records.

    These falsified PMI reports were provided to the Smithsonian. Based on the $15 entrance fee, it is estimated that Mebrahtu stole from 59,712 visitors over the course of her crime.

    Instead of reporting the thefts, Mebrahtu shared advice with co-workers about how to steal money from the museum. One co-worker, Meseret Terefe, 37, of Silver Spring, Md., was sentenced on Jan. 18 to 20 months in prison.

    Also charged in the crimes is Genete Yigzu, 46, of Alexandria.

    The investigation was initiated by the Smithsonian Office of the Inspector General and jointly investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jasmine Yoon and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney James McDonald are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

    @ Chris N
    I agree, there does seem to be a large disparity here. But there may be other factors at play. For example, the Ashburn Jewelry thief had a prior record. And perhaps she got some deal for cooperating… I’m not sure.

    A little over two years for stealing nearly a million dollars in cash?

    Apparently white collar crime pays finely, especially if you have a good lawyer and a volume discount.

    Compare this to the LTM article a few weeks ago about the man who was sentenced to four years for stealing a paltry 10K in jewelry from an Ashburn home.

    I would love to know the legal fees charged by the attornies in these two cases. My guess is that the difference would be striking, and a black eye for equal justice under the law.

    How much of the loss is PMI responsible for? Has PMI’s insurance paid the Smithsonian’s losses?

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