25 Investigates: New York City hits local couple with bogus parking ticket

BOSTON — A local couple cited for a parking violation in Queens told 25 Investigates that New York City parking agents are trying to make them pay a bogus ticket – even though they have proof their car was hundreds of miles away at the time.

Kim Godfrey of Salem said she received a New York City parking ticket for her gray Toyota Corolla in March.

According to the notice, she owed $35 for an unpaid parking ticket from Feb. 17 on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York.

“I thought it was absurd. I thought it was a joke at first,” said Godfrey.

Godfrey and her fiancé, Scott Harris, told 25 Investigates they were never in Queens.

“I've never been to Queens, don't know anybody in Queens, don't know how to get to Queens,” said Godfrey.

Harris added, “My car was not in Queens, New York on Feb. 17 at 1:30 in the afternoon. It wasn't.”

The couple even had proof.

Their Toyota Corolla was at a Danvers repair shop on the day of the ticket. Their invoice shows they picked up the car at 10:18 a.m. that day – not nearly enough time to make the four hour drive to Queens by the time the ticket was written at 1:35 p.m.

The Salem couple contested the ticket with their proof, but the appeal to a three-member board came back with a guilty finding and the panel, stated, “We find no reversible error.”

25 Investigates looked through hundreds of records of every car with a Massachusetts plate that received a New York City parking ticket on Feb. 17 and discovered another plate nearly identical to Godfrey’s but with two letters inverted.

That car was also a gray or silver Toyota ticketed on the same day and also on that same street in Queens.

25 Investigates has learned it was an enough of a coincidence that the New York City Department of Finance, which oversees parking violations, has referred Godfrey’s case to the Sheriff for further investigation.

New York City has handed out parking tickets to more than 270,000 cars with Massachusetts plates in just the last three years alone.

25 Investigates found owners of Massachusetts cars have appealed more than 600 parking violations since July 2015.

Less than a quarter of those tickets were thrown out.

Going after out-of-state cars has become big business in New York. Newspaper headlines highlight recent efforts to crackdown on out-of-towners while reaping millions in fines in the process.

“To me, when something like this occurs and I send in proof stating that our car could not have possibly been there, I believe it almost falls on – it's borderline extortion,” said Harris.

A spokeswoman for New York City’s Department of Finance offered little explanation for why Godfrey’s ticket hasn’t been thrown out on appeal and emailed 25 Investigates the following statement:

“By law, the adjudication judges are required to base their decisions on the evidence that is presented. The appeals board reviewed the case and upheld the judge’s ruling.”

According to the Department of Finance website, drivers can challenge an appeals board decision by filing an “Article 78 Proceeding” with the Supreme Court of New York County, but that requires visiting the court in person.

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