For more than four years, a married couple who own a private vehicle “booting” company ripped off the city of Miami of more than $700,000, state prosecutors said Thursday.
Though the scheme involved thousands of vehicles at dozens of parking lots within Miami, phone applications and several workers, it was remarkable in its simplicity: Investigators say they simply under-reported how many vehicles they booted.
The contract with Miami called for the company to pay Miami $25 each time it booted a vehicle, the couple failed to report thousands of boots between May 2013 and July 2017.
Police working undercover say they recorded dozens of instances in which vehicles were locked up that didn’t match with records given to the city. They also say they interviewed a dispatcher at the company who testified she organized receipts and placed them in a safe and that several days later receipts from the city would reappear at her desk in “greatly reduced volume.”
On Thursday, Andrew Wesley Bleacher, who owns Premiere Booting Services in Broward County, and his wife, Gabriela Caltagirone, were taken into custody and charged with organized fraud, conspiracy to commit organized fraud, aggravated white collar crime, conspiracy to commit aggravated white collar crime and tampering with evidence.
The 27-page arrest warrant for Bleacher and Caltagirone that was unsealed on Thursday claims the couple used the proceeds that should have gone to Miami to purchase luxury items and build additions at their home. According to prosecutors, the couple bought a boat worth more than $170,000 and spent more than $53,000 renovating their pool and pool deck.
Booting is the term used when a tow truck operator attaches a device to the tires of a vehicle to immobilize it. In Premiere’s case, the company was hired by private parking lot operators in Miami to lock up vehicles that had parked illegally.
To remove a boot, a vehicle owner must call a number on a sticker that is placed on the vehicle and pay an $89 fee. The company accepts cash and credit cards. In Premiere’s case, they contracted to pay a $25 portion of that fee to Miami each time a vehicle was booted.