The key to the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of dollars in coins from Annapolis' parking meters turned up in a glove compartment in Arlington, Va., and unlocked an ambitious scam to rip off at least three cities, authorities said yesterday.
Arlington police believe they uncovered an organized ring that specialized in stealing coins from parking meters when they VTC arrested three men in Crystal City, Va., last week. The men, all from the same area in Alabama, were caught emptying coin boxes from Crystal City meters into a large shoulder bag about 3:30 p.m. last Friday.
In the glove compartment of their truck was a key marked "Annapolis," which fit the city's parking meters, Annapolis police said. More than $300 in coins vanished from 108 parking meters in the historic business district between June 26 and June 29.
"They would steal the whole meter first, have a key made to fit the lock and empty the meters," said Annapolis Police Lt. Russell Hall.
Authorities are still searching for the ringleader, believed to be an expert locksmith with a tattoo of a parking meter on his chest, Lieutenant Hall said.
Several cities in Maryland and Virginia, including Bel Air and Alexandria, are investigating whether recent thefts from parking meters are linked to the men arrested in Crystal City, who were identified as: Glenn E. Gothard, 28, of Grant; Jimmy R. Faulkner, 25, of Albertville; and David A. Greer, 32, of Guntersville, all in Alabama. They are being held on $7,500 bond each at the Arlington County jail.
In Annapolis, arrest warrants were being issued charging them with stealing a $300 meter head and 108 coin boxes containing between $300 and $400, police said. The coin boxes were worth $1,595.
When the three suspects were arrested, Arlington police found 43 coin boxes in their truck and three keys in the glove compartment. In addition to the Annapolis key, police found one labeled "Arlington" and a third that was unmarked, said Arlington Police Sgt. Bill Newell.
Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said detectives have been working with officers from other communities, including Annapolis, to see whether thefts from meters in the town are connected to the others.