Thefts of parking coins in Buffalo form 'major bank heist'
BUFFALO — From the moment parking meter mechanic James Bagarozzo began his scheme to steal from the machines, his life became overrun with quarters. He stashed them in his pockets, in a sack in his truck and in closets at his house.
Over more than eight years, he brought home $210,000 worth of quarters — 10,500 pounds of them — which he dutifully rolled and packed in $500 boxes to be exchanged for cash at banks on his lunch hour.
On Friday, a judge imposed a more than 2-year sentence on Bagarozzo, who blamed a gambling addiction and an illness he believed would kill him before he built a nest egg for his family.
“With all its problems, the last thing the city of Buffalo needs is employees who don't do what they're paid to do,” U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara said as he rejected a defense plea for home confinement or community service.
From 2003 through 2011, the meter mechanic spent the first half of every workday stealing from 70 to 75 meters, prosecutors said. Rather than fix machines, he broke them so that quarters would collect on top where he could grab them with his hands instead of dropping into the collection canister.
Bagarozzo, speaking purposely but with little emotion, apologized during a brief statement to the court.
“I have hit rock bottom, and I have had to come up with my family and friends,” the 58-year-old said.
A former co-worker, Lawrence Charles, followed Bagarozzo's lead, stealing $15,000 in quarters over about five years, prosecutors said. He was expected to get six months to a year in prison. His sentencing was postponed.
The employees came under scrutiny in 2011 when Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed the city's new computerized pay stations were bringing in far more money than the old quarter-fed parking meters.
“What may have begun as a theft of nickels and dimes, in the end was the equivalent of a major bank heist,” U.S. Attorney William Hochul said.
Since the arrests, the city's annual parking meter revenue has increased by more than $500,000, Helfer said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
- Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations
- Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance
- Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
- Poll: 4 in 10 know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers
- In a first, private company’s rocket returns safely to Earth
- Traffic deaths rise sharply in United States
- GOP readies next assault on health care law
- Newborn left in manger in N.Y. church, police say
- 3 arrested in shooting of Minneapolis protesters
- House Republicans call for refugee limits in spending bill