Posted at: 01/31/2013 9:33 PM
Updated at: 02/01/2013 11:06 AM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB4 On Your Side
They watch, they wait and as soon as a driver steps off the property, their car is booted.
It's a scene that has played out countless times in small private parking lots along Central near the University Campus.
The lack of parking, the many restaurants and shops and students heading to class have made for a busy business of booting cars.
But a 4 On Your Side Investigation has found that cars booted by private companies in Albuquerque since Aug 23, 2011 may have been booted illegally.
In most cases drivers are asked to pay around $60 cash-only as a boot removal fee.
Drivers parking at McDonald's on Central and Yale have reported being told to withdraw money from the ATM at the Frontier Restaurant if they don't have the cash on hand.
In Albuquerque, the private booting of vehicles is allowed under an ordinance passed in August 2011 as long as the property owner has at least two posted signs "no smaller than 24 inches in height and 36 inches in width."
The ordinance also reads that "any person or entity violating any provision of this article shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a petty misdemeanor."
But a visit by 4OYS Investigative Reporter Gadi Schwartz revealed no sign on the McDonald's property was in compliance with the law prior to last week.
4OYS confronted an employee of Armando's Booting Jan. 24 while he was removing a boot from a man's car.
When asked why the company had not posted the correct sized signs, the employee called the police.
Eventually the police and the owner of the booting company, Armando Sanchez, arrived at the parking lot.
Schwartz told Sanchez his signs were too small and he was out of compliance with the law.
Sanchez said he would fix the problem the next day but when asked if people who had been illegally booted would receive a refund with his company, Sanchez said there was no way he would issue refunds.
When pressed by Schwartz about the illegality of the booting operation, Sanchez said refunds would be something he would look into.
4OYS later spotted another man in the McDonald's parking lot with a boot on his truck speaking with the Armando's Booting employee.
The owner of the truck, Ed Allison, told 4OYS he had gone into a restaurant attached the the Mcdonalds parking lot assuming that the parking was intended for restaurant customers.
Allison parked his truck right next to the car the Armando's Booting employee was using to monitor the lot.
"If he was sitting there he probably could have told me not to park there," Allison said.
But when the Armando's Booting employee saw Allison talking to 4OYS he quickly removed the boot, got in his car and drove away.
"Well they have removed the boot and it sounds like you guys have saved me 60 dollars," said Allison. "If they have been doing that for years and I'm the one person that that's happened to that's pretty lucky."
On Friday, the City Albuquerque issued cease and desist orders to Armando's Booting and the Perico's Restaurant for non-compliance with city law.
Since Friday, Armando's Booting has posted new signs in accordance with the regulations and have resumed booting operations.
A spokesperson for McDonald's says that they had contracted with Armando's booting to keep their lot clear for customers.
The spokeswoman said they had no idea Armando's Booting was not in compliance and added that the company did not make any money from the booting of vehicles on their property and said they have directed Armando's to come into compliance with the city ordinance.