NEW ORLEANS -- With parking spots gobbled up in and around the French Quarter for the Krewe du Vieux parade Saturday night, some people thought they had lucked out when they came across two lots along Esplanade near Rampart.
"The guy had a flashlight and he told me to back up and get closer to the car next to it, and give him $20," said Jean Valliere.
Valliere said it seemed legitimate.
Another woman, Anne Holland, said it seemed to be a coordinated parking system.
"(The lot) was roped off. There was only one entrance, one exit, and there was three or four guys with flashlights trying to park us close together, so they could get as many cars as possible in there,” Holland said.
But after the parade, the women and dozens of other people returned to find their vehicles gone.
Valliere first thought her car was stolen, but after some searching, she found it at an impound yard in Mid-City, called Mid-City Towing.
The car had been hauled away, Valliere was told, because it was parked in a private lot.
"We did not see anything that was posted that was noticeable in the dark. There was no fencing. There was nothing to indicate that this was a private lot," she said.
So, who were the men waving people in and collecting money? New Orleans police say they’re investigating.
"Oh, we got scammed. $20 to park there and then $182 to get the car out," Holland said.
At one of the lots Monday, workers repaired a perimeter rope, which someone apparently cut to pull off the scam.
By phone, the property’s owner told us the same thing happened New Year’s Eve – a reason she vows to install a new fence this week.
With the Super Bowl and the busy stretch of Mardi Gras just around the corner, the victims we talked with said swift action is needed.
"It would seem to me, since this has happened repeatedly, that the owner would do something to prevent this," Valliere said.
"It's unfortunate for the locals and for the tourists,” Holland said. “I mean, for the tourists, they probably won't come back. So, it really hurts the city."