UK & World News
Man Jailed Over $210K Parking Meter Scam
A parking meter repair man in Buffalo, New York has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for stealing more than $210,000 (£135,000) - all in quarters - from machines in the city.
James Bagarozzo, 58, who worked in Buffalo for more than 30 years, was entrusted to service its 1,200 meters.
But he rigged dozens so that deposited quarters never dropped into the coin canisters, allowing him to retrieve the money for himself.
Special agent Rob Gross of the FBI Buffalo Division, who investigated the case, said: "When he went to work, half of his day was spent stealing from the city."
After Bagarozzo and fellow city employee Lawrence Charles were arrested, FBI investigators found some $47,000 in cash and quarters in Bagarozzo's home, including $40,000 hidden in his bedroom ceiling.
Bagarozzo stole the money over an eight-year period using bags in his car or his deep-pocketed work trousers to take it home. He rolled the change in coin wrappers and exchanged it for notes at the bank.
"The bank never suspected because Bagarozzo told the tellers he had a friend with a vending machine business," Mr Gross explained.
"He developed such a good relationship with the bank tellers that they eventually gave him boxes to use that held exactly $500 worth of quarters. He went to the bank several times a week with a $500 box of quarters and got cash in return."
Bagarozzo said he began stealing from the city when he became ill in 2003 and grew worried about providing for his wife and two teenage daughters. He was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal system.
Over time, he also started to gamble at local casinos and his hobby eventually became an addiction, according to his lawyer James P Harrington.
A former colleague, Lawrence Charles, followed Bagarozzo's lead, stealing $15,000 in quarters over about five years. His sentencing has been postponed until August 29.
Suspicion fell on the two men in 2011 after Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed the city's new computerised pay stations were bringing in far more money than the old quarter-fed parking meters.
After Bagarozzo's sentencing, attorney William J Hochul Jr told reporters: "What began as a theft of nickels and dimes in the end was the equivalent of a major bank heist."
Richard Frankel, acting special agent in charge of the FBI Buffalo Division, said: "This case is a classic example of how public corruption strikes at the heart of government's ability to serve its people.
"We are gratified to see justice served in this case."