Suspects arrested in Netherworld parking scheme

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Police say three enterprising men set up shop outside a Norcross business Friday, charging visitors to the nearby Netherworld Haunted House to park in the empty lot.

The scary part was the men had no ties to the business in question, and were operating illegally.

Gwinnett County police arrested 39-year-old Michel Asson of Atlanta, 33-year-old Wogbeh Karter of Winder and 32-year-old Sean Prue of Lawrenceville on Friday after being tipped off to the lot at 6460 Dawson Boulevard. According to the responding police officer, the suspects were charging cars $5 apiece to park in the lot with an address matching that of Bova Contemporary Furniture.

The problem is they weren't authorized to do so, which police discovered after reading a letter from the property manager.

"It stated that none of the tenants have given permission to anyone to charge for parking on their lots," an incident report said.

Asson, Karter and Prue were charged with criminal trespass before being released on $1,300 bond. According to police, the suspects had more than $200 cash at the time of their arrest.

Dubbed "gypsy parking lots," the concept of opening shop in empty lots without permission -- usually outside of major sporting events or concert venues -- is not a new one, but police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter said he had never heard of such an operation in Gwinnett County.

With an undoubtedly busy few days ahead as Halloween draws closer, thrill seekers' best bet is to get to Netherworld early and park right in front of the attraction. A Netherworld spokesperson said Tuesday that the only parking lot owned by the haunted house is the main one near its entrance.

Nearby businesses charging visitors to park after hours are not affiliated with -- or regulated by -- Netherworld.