A man employed as a parking meter mechanic for more than three decades in Buffalo, N.Y. was sentenced Friday to 2.5 years in prison after stealing
more than $US200,000 in quarters.
According to prosecutors, over a period of more than eight years, 58-year-old James Bagarozzo spent half his work day stealing from 70 to 75 parking meters around the city. Rather than fixing the machines, he rigged them so quarters would collect on top so he could grab them more easily.
The total haul in quarters was $US210,000 — equivalent to 10,500 pounds — which he stashed in his car or his deep-pocketed work pants. He then rolled and packed them in $US500 boxes before exchanging them at a bank for cash during his lunch hour, according to the AP.
“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 told AP.
Lawrence Charles, a former coworker of Bagarozzo, also joined in the scam — personally stealing $US15,000 in quarters over a five-year span. He’s expected to get six months to a year in jail.
The FBI gives more details on the case:
“The bank never suspected,” Gross said, “because Bagarozzo told the tellers he had a friend with a vending machine business. He developed such a good relationship with the bank tellers,” Gross explained, “that they eventually gave him boxes to use that held exactly $US500 worth of quarters. He went to the bank several times a week with a $US500 box of quarters and got cash in return.”
The scam might have continued indefinitely if not for the appointment of a new parking commissioner, who noticed a significant difference in revenue between the city’s mechanical meters and newer electronic machines. In September 2010, the city’s Division of Parking Enforcement began an investigation that expanded to include the Buffalo Police Department, and eventually the local authorities asked the FBI for assistance.
Prosecutors said he used the money to pay his mortgage and send his daughters to college, but Bagarozzo admitted he had a gambling addiction. “I have hit rock bottom and I have had to come up with my family and friends,” he said in a statement to the court.
The parking commissioner told AP that since the arrests, parking meter revenue has gone up more than $US500,000.
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