The last of three Udvar-Hazy Center employees accused of stealing $1.4 million in parking fees from the Chantilly museum pleaded guilty April 19 in federal court.
Abeselom Hailemariam, 33, of Alexandria, was employed by Parking Management Inc. (PMI), the company contracted to manage parking services at the Smithsonian Institution’s museum.
Hailemariam faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison at sentencing July 19.
The plea follows Hailemariam’s March 5 arrest at Dulles International Airport by agents of the Smithsonian Office of Inspector General and FBI.
Hailemariam was a full-time location manager for PMI, which managed the 2,000-vehicle parking lot at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Between March 2009 and July 2012, Hailemariam supervised the PMI booth attendants, accounted for revenues from visitor vehicles and submitted operations reports to PMI and the Smithsonian.
Over the course of three years, Hailemariam and several booth attendants at the site conspired to steal cash entrance fees paid by tens of thousands of museum visitors. With Hailemariam’s approval, the booth attendants withheld parking ticket stubs from paying customers and unplugged electronic vehicle counters in the entrance booths. At the end of each shift, the attendants would submit a false shift summary report to Hailemariam that under-reported the number of vehicles that had entered the parking lot.
Hailemariam also gave instructions to conspiring booth attendants to stop stealing at certain times when the co-conspirators believed they were at risk of getting caught.
Based on a $15 entrance fee, it's estimated Hailemariam participated in a conspiracy that stole from at least 92,213 visitor vehicles over the course of the crime.
PMI employees Meseret Terefe, 37, of Silver Spring, Md. and Freweyni Mebrahtu, 46, of Sterling, have already been convicted in connection with the scheme. They were sentenced to 20 months and 27 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the thefts.