(MCT) — Scores of suburban drivers have been overcharged for old parking tickets — some by hundreds of dollars — while the state turned a blind eye to warnings of a problem, the Tribune has found.
The newspaper analyzed hundreds of pages of records from several communities and found more than 130 cases in which vehicle owners had their balances boosted without explanation by a collection firm used by the suburbs.
Some of the vehicle owners had their state paychecks or income tax refunds garnished to pay for the overcharges, while their complaints were ignored.
Ed White from Crestwood was one. Records show that White had at least $484 garnished from his income tax refund to cover fines the forklift operator had already paid to Blue Island.
"Plain and simple, I was overcharged," he said. "I did the proper procedures of calling around. ... I started off at Blue Island. I called roughly about five or six numbers, and ended up back at Blue Island. And Blue Island is telling me it's paid off. There is nothing they can do."
The findings expose the vulnerabilities of a debt-collection system for unpaid tickets that was supposed to ensure harsh treatment only for those who skipped out on paying fines. Instead, the Tribune found that not only were others ensnared by get-tough laws, but the same people were failed again by a regulatory system that did little to stop it.
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