HOUSTON — There was no car and no help for a Houston man who gave his keys to a valet, who turned out to be a fake.
Houston Police responded to the entrance of The Rice downtown where staff alerted them to a suspicious man who may have stolen a car Monday morning.
It wasn’t until later that afternoon when Bhoumin Mehta returned from across the street after work and was told his Toyota Camry was stolen.
Practically every day, Mehta hands his keys over to the valet outside The Rice, and Monday was no different.
“He opened the door, pulled the ticket and gave it to me. So I don’t question when he knows where the tickets are, and that’s what happens every time when I park the car,” Mehta said.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the fact that this guy wasn’t a valet.
Turns out he had been spotted on surveillance hanging out near The Rice and waiting near the valet podium. He wore all black, giving the impression he was in uniform.
To offer some perspective, there is one other valet service on the same block offering services to the restaurants below The Rice. Those valets wear black, but those working for Waves valet, who service The Rice, wear navy.
Waves valet had just started work for The Rice toward the end of March, so Mehta says he wasn’t sure who to expect at the door.
Representatives with the Office of the Houston Administration and Regulatory Affairs say Waves was approved for a city valet operating permit which would have required them to purchase insurance. The only issue: does this insurance cover a thief posing as an employee?
City officials say they have no answer for the legalities of the matter, but know it’s tough to apply the rules to companies unaware of any wrongdoing.
The claim check handed to Mehta limits liability on behalf of Waves valet, even in theft. Mehta says his only option now is to seek legal help, as he doesn’t expect to get his car back anytime soon.
“This is not right. Nobody is willing to help me, so I’m frustrated,” Mehta said.
In a statement, The Rice officials say:
“We are looking into the incident with the valet company and cooperating with the police investigation.”
Waves valet did not return our calls for comment.
HPD say they’re looking for a white male, about 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, driving a silver Toyota Camry. If you have any information, please call Crime Stoppers.