Car Hit With Over $100,000 In Chicago Parking Tickets

Chicago most ticketed car sits in the city's impound lot at O'Hare Airport

EXCLUSIVE: The Astounding Story Of How A Car Worth $600 Racked Up Over $100,000 In Chicago Parking Tickets

It might just be a world record.

At the very least one particular car has set a City of Chicago record for having been issued the most parking violations ever and having accumulated the most parking fines in the city’s history.

The city claims Jennifer Fitzgerald owes over $100,000 in parking tickets.

No, that’s not a typo or a few misplaced zeros on the end.

The amount is actually 105,761 dollars and 80 cents to be precise.

This is the total mind boggling debt the City of Chicago says the 31 year old, single mother of one, allegedly owes for parking violations on a single vehicle.

It’s a car she claims she didn’t own, drive or park where it racked up 678 bright orange parking tickets over a period of nearly three years according to Chicago’s Department of Finance.

Based on records from the DOF’s  list of the city’s top parking ticket scofflaws, the car in question seems to have set a record in Chicago for having received the highest number of parking tickets as well as accruing the largest fine amounts ever–beating Chicago’s #2 ranked parking ticket scofflaw by $65,000 and over 400 violations!

But now Fitzgerald is fighting back with a lawsuit against the city, her ex-boyfriend and United Airlines which was filed Friday, November 2nd in Cook County Circuit Court.

A Love Story Gone Bad

According to the complaint, the somewhat confusing story starts when her former boyfriend Brandon Preveau, bought a 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo from Fitzgerald’s uncle for $600 in 2008. Despite paying all the fees associated with owning a vehicle (registration, title, insurance, etc.) he put the vehicle’s registration in Fitzgerald’s name–something the West Side Chicago resident claims was done without her knowledge.

The couple, despite having had a baby together, broke up at the start of 2009, and Preveau took the car with him after their split, using the car to drive to work at O’Hare Airport where he was employed by United Airlines.

Preveau would park the vehicle in O’Hare parking lot E, a secured outdoor lot surrounded by high chain link fencing, that’s open to the flying public but also utilized by drivers employed at the airport. The parking lot is owned by the City of Chicago and operated by Standard Parking Corporation. But according to the complaint, United Airlines leases spaces in the lot for use by airline employees.

For some reason, and unbeknownst to Fitzgerald, Preveau abandoned the vehicle, and according to the complaint contends, “On or before November 17, 2009, Brandon drove the Automobile into the Parking Lot and never drove it out again.”

30 Days

While the car Preveau drove began receiving parking tickets at the O’Hare lot as early as May 23rd, 2009 the key date for this story is November 17th, 2009.

On that particular day the vehicle was issued seven different parking tickets including being in a hazardous and dilapidated condition, no city sticker, broken headlights, missing or cracked windows, expired plates, being an abandoned vehicle and most importantly a violation for parking a vehicle for more than 30 days in a city owned lot.

Beyond the $50 fine that comes with that violation, the law also states ”Any vehicle parked in violation of this section shall be subjected to an immediate tow and removal to city vehicle pound or authorized garage.”.

Department of Aviation spokesperson Karen Pride says O’Hare parking policies essentially echo the law. 30 days is the normal maximum a vehicle is allowed to stay parked in any of O’Hare parking lots. Although exceptions can be made for a longer stay if arrangements are made with between the driver and Standard Parking.

“There are signs posted at the entrance to all revenue lots at O’Hare relating the parking policy,” says Pride. “If an individual plans to leave a vehicle in a revenue lot for longer than 30 days, he must notify Standard Parking, the lot operators at the airport.”

“If a vehicle is in a lot for more than 30 days and Standard Parking was not notified, then the company will try to contact the owner to find out his plans to get the vehicle,” Pride further explained. “If Standard cannot contact the owner, then the vehicle is towed to Lot F, where it might remain for 30-90 days, in case the owner comes back for it. After that period, the vehicle is towed to the City impound lot as abandoned.”

But despite the legal fact and corresponding airport parking policies which should have seen the car yanked from the lot, airport police continued to ticket the vehicle over and over and over again for a wide range of violations until April 30th 2012.

In the nearly two and a half years after the car had been officially designated as an abandoned vehicle by the city it had been ticketed another 677 times.

Fitzgerald’s lawsuit argues the vast majority of the tickets would never have been issued if the city had just followed their own law and protocols when the vehicle was first identified as being in violation of the law.

Put On Notice

Fitzgerald finally began getting a whiff there was a serious problem in December, 2009 when the first batch, of what would eventually total 391 notices from the Department of Revenue began appearing in her mailbox for the contagion of parking tickets being generated at the airport.

Fitzgerald, according to the complaint, began trying to rectify the situation in several ways.

First, she and her family pleaded with Preveau to move the car, but to no avail. She wanted to move the vehicle herself but was stymied because she didn’t have keys to the car nor could she access the car because it was parked in a secure lot she claims. She enlisted the Chicago Police Department to aide her but the complaint says the investigating officer couldn’t obtain access to the lot either says the legal filing.

Fitzgerald asked the Illinois Secretary of State to revoke the vehicle’s license plates, which finally occurred September 29, 2010.

Yet, despite the revocation, the city continued to issue the parking violations to the car for another year and a half.

In the latter part of 2011, the city through their collection agency Arnold, Scott Harris, had obtained several judgments against Fitzgerald totaling nearly $21,000–a mere fraction of the total the city claims she now owes.

Appearing before an Administrative Law Judge to defend herself and hopefully explain the confounding situation, Fitzgerald  says she was advised by the ALJ to sign over title to the vehicle to Preveau in order to shift liability to him, which she promptly did and delivered it to her ex-boyfriend.

Finally, Some  Help

After dealing with this parking ticket nightmare by her lonesome for two years, Fitzgerald finally secured some help this past April in the form of pro bono legal counsel from attorney Robin Omahana.

When contacted, Omahana declined to comment on the pending matter, or make his client available to discuss her situation, but directed us to his filed complaint.

Omahana wrote a letter to Arnold Scott Harris to explain the situation and ask for some sort of relief for Fitzgerald. Ultimately, in July the collection attorneys came back and said Fitzgerald’s attempt to transfer title to Preveau was inadequate and the city would show no mercy for her situation claiming she was indeed liable for the six figures of parking ticket fines.

At that point, Omahana began moving forward to prepare the lawsuit that was filed November 2nd.

Roderick Drew, spokesperson for the city’s Law Department, when contacted about the complaint, explained that department has not seen the lawsuit yet.

“The City hasn’t yet had a chance to review the lawsuit, so we can’t comment at this time,” said Drew.

The City Digs In Their Heels

Trying to find out how a situation like this could occur, The Expired Meter contacted the Chicago Police Department, Standard Parking (which has the contract to manage O’Hare’s parking lots) and further pressed the city’s Aviation Department for more insight into how something like this could happen. Each entity was loudly silent on the matter.

CPD spokesperson Melissa Stratton, after multiple requests by phone and email, had not answered any of The Expired Meter’s questions regarding CPD’s policies on parking enforcement and towing abandoned vehicles at the airport as of this story’s publication. Standard Parking declined to share their thoughts saying their contract with the city forbade the company from commenting on such matters and referred this site back to the Dept. of Aviation for answers.

Pride, the Department of Aviation spokesperson for O’Hare, also did not respond to this site’s followup questions requesting more detailed information in regards to parking enforcement and towing policies at airport lots.

So is the city really planning to collect the enormous sum of money from Fitzgerald?

“Ms. Fitzgerald may contact the Department of Finance to resolve this matter,” answered DOF spokesperson Holly Stutz via email, punctuating her statement with a breakdown of the number of tickets and notices issued to Fitzgerald and referring this website to a Freedom of Information Act option if more information was wanted.

Payment plans are available from the city to pay off larger amounts of parking ticket debt. But when a driver’s license has been suspended or the vehicle has been booted in Fitzgerald’s case, the city requires at least a 50% down payment and the registered owner given one year to pay off the balance. Although in some cases the city will agree to 24 months of payments according to a telephone operator this website spoke to at Arnold Scott Harris. But none of these scenarios seem anywhere close to realistic for anyone with such an oppressive amount of debt, let alone a person like Fitzgerald who lacks employment.

What’s Next?

In the meantime it seems, according to the city’s ticket search website, the abandoned car was booted and Fitzgerald’s driver’s license has been suspended according to city databases.

Fitzgerald’s lawsuit asks the court to find she was not the owner of the car and therefore not liable for the parking tickets.  At worst the filing ask that the city and United Airlines should be responsible for towing the abandoned car from the parking lot on November 17, 2009 and thus no subsequent tickets should have been issued after that date.

The $100,000 parking ticket case will first see the inside of a courtroom in early May of next year.

Just a few days before Fitzgerald’s lawsuit was filed but nearly three years after it was first abandoned in that O’Hare parking lot, the car with six figures in parking tickets, was finally towed to a city impound lot at O’Hare on October 26, 2012 according to the city’s Find Your Vehicle website.

The car remains behind the high, razor wired topped chain link fence of the O’Hare auto pound, just a few blocks from where it had forlornly spent the past three years. It’s ultimate fate will most likely be the scrapyard.

That is unless someone pays the over $100,000 in parking tickets still owing.

37 Responses to Car Hit With Over $100,000 In Chicago Parking Tickets

  1. DoR Employee says:

    CPD didn’t have it towed out of that lot for a Reason.

    They were Padding their ticket counts every day on that vehicle.

    Should have been in the Impound Lot F by Day 31….no excuse for DOA and CPD up there.

  2. DoR Employee says:

    There are serious problems here….but I’ll be brief.

    Why didn’t the vehicle in the same spot for so long set off a mental alarm to the Cops or TCA’s that were issuing these tickets? This is a Post 9-11 Airport for Gods Sake. And one of the busiest airports in the Country. The Vehicle should never have been allowed to sit for so long to accrue that many citations in the First Place.

    Look at the Loop….tow trucks everywhere taking illegally parked vehicles every day. No reason that a vehicle in a City Airport lot that has been flagged as Abandoned should get another 677 tickets before it gets towed to impound.

    I’ll continue this thought tomorrow.

    We in DOF review the tickets issued by our PEA’s…to ensure Quality and Accuracy and also in cases of Complaints.

    Where is the CPD review for these 3 reasons?

    It may be time for the CPD to have their Parking Ticket writing abilities Removed. No Parking Violations other than Rush Hour or Fire Hydrants or Obstructing Roadway would be a good start. We have the City Clerk and Dept of Finance Revenue PEA’s to issue the rest.

    1 Vehicle getting multiple parking tickets or multiple compliance tickets in the same Week is one thing.

    1 Vehicle getting multiple parking tickets in the same day while parked in the same spot is another.

    While it is a distinct possibility to get 2 Rush Hour tickets in the same day in different areas of the city, or multiple expired meter tickets in the same day…there is no reason for what has happened in this case Repeatedly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I just saw him pull into his garage with…wait for it…a ticket stuck to the car.

  4. B says:

    I can make a guess why this happened.
    The airport parking ticket writers probably have performance objectives to meet. If the car is towed they can write tickets on it every day. Perhaps every shift. This helps them meet their performance objectives.

    Why he put the car in her name. Simple. A family sale in Illinois only carries a $15 tax, rather than full out sales/use tax.

    Another reason it wasn’t towed is that it apparently had been abused to the point of having no value. If this car had value the tow vultures would have been on it quickly. The city’s system allowing tow yards to take legal possession of a car would have had it gone. Or perhaps the whole system is short circuited by it being at the airport.

    Anyway what it comes down to is the city, like government, like criminals do is targeting someone who can’t properly defend herself.

  5. WittyWeasel says:

    It’s *** NEVER *** a good idea to try and screw someone with a prank that can just as easily be turned against you. Now that this story’s out, there’s NOTHING to stop anyone sympathetic to the woman from buying old junkers, registering them in this guy’s name and abandoning them across the country. Not a really smart way to get revenge, Sparky !

  6. Mike says:

    Yeah, this sounds about right for this broken city and its moronic “civil servants.” A few years ago someone abandoned a beat-up SUV across the street from my house. I called the city but they didn’t do anything. So for a couple months, a lazy CPD officer would swing by, lean out the window of his squad car and slap a ticket on the vehicle. At one point there were dozens of tickets. Would it have occurred to the lazy cops to do anything more? Of course not.

    One night I looked out my window and saw a man lying face down on the sidewalk. He looked dead. I called out to him but he didn’t move. I called 911. Ten minutes later the cops arrived. Without getting out of their car, they yelled to the guy, “Ey, buddy, ey buddy, you alright?” To my relief, the guy stirred, rolled around and then stumbled to his feet and brushed himself off. He swayed and staggered around, and said, “I’mmm gotta be honezzt witchoo guyzzz. I’m reeeeally drunk.” CPD: “You think you can make it home buddy?” Drunk guy: “UhhhhyyyeeahIthinkso. Thhhankzzzoccifers.”

    Drunk guy staggered away. He was so drunk I doubt if he remembered where he lived or was even walking in the right direction. A hazard to others and himself, he lurched and stumbled off into the night. The squad car stayed where it was and I started wondering if the cops were calling something in, or waiting to turn around and follow the guy to make sure he made it home okay. It was freezing cold and very late. The guy could have frozen to death or been mugged. Nope, the cops were just writing up ticket number 37 for that filthy, abandoned SUV.

    Useless.

  7. [...] holds a record she never wanted to achieve — the 31-year-old single mother received the highest number of parking tickets and accumulated the largest amount in fines that Chicago has ever [...]

  8. [...] holds a record she never wanted to achieve — the 31-year-old single mother received the highest number of parking tickets and accumulated the largest amount in fines that Chicago has ever [...]

  9. Just Someone says:

    How is this guy not facing criminal charges for fraud?

    A civil suit should be the least of his worries by this time.

  10. justin robel says:

    How soon did they forget many gangland slayings occur in Chicago and bodies are dumped in the trunk and cars are parked at the airport once the trunk was popped open they would have towed it away. Fire the ticket writer for wasting taxpayers money for repeating ticket writing

  11. [...] Monte Carlo, from her uncle for $600 in 2008 and registered it in her name without her knowing, The Expired Meter reports. The couple broke up in 2009, and he dumped the car in an O’Hare International [...]

  12. [...] holds a record she never wanted to achieve — the 31-year-old single mother received thehighest number of parking tickets and accumulated the largest amount in fines that Chicago has ever [...]

  13. [...] woman off the hook for the vast majority of these tickets,” Mike Brockway, who runs the blog The Expired Meter, told Fox [...]

  14. [...] woman off the hook for the vast majority of these tickets,” Mike Brockway, who runs the blog The Expired Meter, told Fox [...]

  15. [...] The saga was first highlighted by Mike Brockway from the Chicago motorists blog The Expired Meter. [...]

  16. OMG! says:

    @Mike…… hey whiner…..here’s a solution……close your window shades shades and the problem goes away!

  17. Karen Cascio says:

    In the post 911 world, out at O’Hare, did anyone stop to consider if that vehicle may have been loaded with explosives, weapons or possibly, a body? This City is so revenue generated in its thinking it can’t see straight! Welcome to O’Hare! Get ready to spend every dime in your pocket,checkbook and max your credit card. Chicago awaits, with fees, fines and charges. Morally bankrupt and caring nothing for its visitors or citizens other than getting their money. So sad.

  18. Morons says:

    Last time I was at O’Hare it was a revenue guy writing tickets, not a cop.

  19. [...] tot 105.761,80 dollar (zo’n 80.000 euro). De vrouw klaagt haar ex en de gemeente aan, meldt The Expired Meter. Volgens haar had de gemeente volgens hun eigen regels de auto na 30 dagen gewoon moeten [...]

  20. mike says:

    Now I understand… maybe the City has time to send this ticket writer my way.
    My sister has a jerk neighbor, he parks a POS car in front of her house, leaves it there for months, and he has to jump it to start it. He only moves it for street cleaning. The car is a Honda, the city sticker says Hyundai. This guy has a 3 car garage with a carport. One car in the garage and nothing on the carport. He doesn’t like anyone parking “ACROSS THE LINE” in front of his house. I’ve called 311 and used the online reporting form. Nothing. I went on vacation, left my SUV in front of sisters’ house for 8 days, I came back and had a sticker on it for tow of an abandoned vehicle. Apparently leaving a car for over 7 days is a nono in Chicago, or maybe just me.

  21. Jose says:

    Mike…

    Send the Geek the Make/Model and Plate #.

    He can get it to Capt M Plate for you

  22. Dr. Suess says:

    The DoR responses crack me up…Yeah, the cops have a “quota” to fill so they leave the car there. If you really are DoR you know CPD doesn’t have parking ticket quotas. Also if you really are DoR you know ANY police officer could write an ENTIRE book of parkers w/o any trouble in an 8 hr shift anywhere in the city. Lastly if you are DoR you know there are VERY FEW police out there that even want to write tickets at all cuz it’s putting $ in Rahm’s pocket. I won’t say the police shouldn’t have done something more after the car sat so long but I can also bet the tickets were written by several different officers and at some point in time a tow was requested and never happened. Maybe the DoR guy should worry about HIS employees trying to stick it to citizens. Like the time they were booting a car parked in INDIANA and continued to put the boot on even after they were told by an off duty PO that they couldn’t put a boot on a car parked in a different STATE and only removed it because the media was called and showed up.

  23. [...] woman off the hook for the vast majority of these tickets,” Mike Brockway, who runs the blog The Expired Meter, told Fox [...]

  24. [...] Fitzgerald now knows this as well. To make matters worse, it wasn’t exactly her car, reports The Expired Meter. Her uncle sold the car to her then-boyfriend, who registered it in her [...]

  25. DoR Employee says:

    Dr Suess…

    I said “pad their ticket count.” Never Used the Word Quota.
    And I know there is no ‘Official’ quota for the CPD or DOR….but Daily Goals and Assignments Can be given to Officers….”Bob, go out and write 1 book of parkers for Street Cleaning today.”

    And I know that it would be quite simple for the CPD to write a Book of 35 Parkers a Shift unless they get a Call or Accident or are on a Special Mission. Although…after what I just saw today…I’m not sure the CPD Knows HOW to write a Parker anymore.

    If the CPD actually was writing Parking and Compliance Tickets every day and every shift like PEA’s, then we wouldn’t NEED my Department and I’d happily transfer to Streets and San or the Administrative Hearings Division or OEMC or HHS….and do something useful there instead.

    But please keep in mind that the Police Detail at Ohare and Midway are special units that are not attached to specific Districts…and as such…the Officers in those units can be reassigned to the District they were originally from before they were anointed by their Clout. Thus when their CO says “Jump” the answer is always “how High?”

    And after chatting with a few of the Finance PEA’s that Used to be Full Time Traffic Aides….they had an Official Daily Goal of Tickets to Issue Every Shift. It was 5 per day….not impossible or outrageous or unethical …but that still makes it a quota.

    And I know the stated “reasons” behind the Lack of Parking Ticket issuance by the CPD. They have been blaming the Mayor and the Superintendent and Morale issues for decades at this point…and taking pride in not raising revenue for the City that Employs them and actually Needs Revenue Generation to shore up the budget shortfall. But they rush over each other and PEA’s to write the all important Street Cleaning or Rush Hour or Residential Permit Violations if you live in the “Slow and Safe” Police Districts.

  26. Dr. Suess says:

    DoR, this is wrong….But please keep in mind that the Police Detail at Ohare and Midway are special units that are not attached to specific Districts…and as such…the Officers in those units can be reassigned to the District they were originally from before they were anointed by their Clout. Thus when their CO says “Jump” the answer is always “how High?”
    The Airports are bid units and that is why 80% that work there have more than 20 years on the job. What is usually boils down to is pet peeves. For me I will ALWAYS write a parker on a hydrant. Rush Hr. parkers are another one. Everyone wants to get to wrk or home from work quickly. Traffic is bad enough. People who disobey the rush Hr. parking restrictions are selfish and most police will write them too because they affect almost all drivers.

  27. DoR Employee says:

    Bid Units are still 99% Clout in this City and you know it.

  28. [...] The saga was first highlighted by Mike Brockway from the Chicago motorists blog The Expired Meter. [...]

  29. [...] woman off the hook for the vast majority of these tickets,” Mike Brockway, who runs the blog The Expired Meter, told local news reporters. —Source: nydailynews.com and The Jester’s [...]

  30. [...] be liable for the tickets. According to the court papers, first obtained by the Chicago website, The Expired Meter, Fitzgerald “was never the owner of the [automobile]… had no control over the [...]

  31. [...] be liable for the tickets. According to the court papers, first obtained by the Chicago website, The Expired Meter, Fitzgerald “was never the owner of the [automobile]… had no control over the [automobile] when [...]

  32. [...] be liable for the tickets. According to the court papers, first obtained by the Chicago website, The Expired Meter, Fitzgerald “was never the owner of the [automobile]… had no control over the [...]

  33. g terviglia says:

    The real question IS, why does the city of Chicago ‘own’/run OHare Airport, which is on land that is not contiguous with ANY City of Chicago border?

    That is not part of Chicago, and unless the same city can be in disconnected remote land masses, they have no business out in the subuebs with the utter corruption.

    If Chicago can take OHare, which it does not border in any point along the city boundaries, why cant it annex places of value in unincorporated DuPage, or declare Woodfield mall to be within “Chicago”.

    Chicago has no honest title to OHare, and does not physically connect to it, and this should be what is litigated.. that city and it leadership is a full-on cesspool of the most crooked and deceitful, and theused public malaise and a legal ruse to gain possessionm of a suburban airport that they cannot legally ‘own’ or annex because its not contiguous with the city of Chicago.

    OHare should be run by a regional consortium, that really could not be more corrupt than the status quo, which is based on a illegal annexation aided by payments to the stephens crew in Rosemont.

  34. David says:

    Actually Chicago IS physically connected to O’Hare. The City has a “neck” of land which runs between Park Ridge and Harwood Heights along the Kennedy and a few neighboring streets all the way out to O’Hare. See those three identical buildings on the South Side of the Kennedy just West of Cumberland? Those are in Chicago…. As are the next several highrises as well. Its been that way since the 1950′s. Its valuable property of the City of Chicago and cannot be taken without just compensation.

  35. Richard says:

    I an having a problem with the department of revenue. Has anyone sued them successfully?

  36. Richard says:

    I am having a problem with the Chicago Department of Finance. There seems to be no way to talk to anyone who can fix a stupid problem or has the authority to correct their mistakes. Please get in touch if you can shed a light on this putrid dank road to sanity with these Flak catchers.
    Thanks.

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