Mother, son accused of swindling $4K in parking fees

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HATCH, N.M. — A mother and son are facing fraud charges after an alleged parking scheme outside the 50th Hatch Chile Festival.

According to Hatch Police, 68-year-old Celeste Zimmerman and 31-year-old Raymond Swingle collected more than $4,000 in fake parking fees from festival-goers.

The event was held between Sept. 2 and Sept. 4. Court documents revealed the committee that organizes the festival decided against charging parking fees simply because they aren’t allowed to charge for parking off public roads or on school grounds.

Documents say Swingle was seen demanding $10 from people to park on East Herrera Road. He reportedly blocked cars until they paid up. A state police officer says he watched Swingle continue to demand payment even after he was told to stop.

Documents suggest the entire operation was Zimmerman’s plan. A member of the organizing committee told a detective Zimmerman is the village treasurer and also worked on the committee. She says Zimmerman became upset with the committee decided not to charge for parking.

Documents say Zimmerman told her assistant, “damn the consequences” and employed her son to charge for parking.

Zimmerman was reportedly the only committee member who had access to the festival’s website. She reportedly posted a message on the website saying there would be a $10 contribution fee to help keep the festival running.

Documents say the committee did not approve of the message.

Both Zimmerman and Swingle were arrested and booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center.