Former City of Buffalo Employee Sentenced for Stealing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars from Parking Meters
BUFFALO, N.Y.-- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that James Bagarozzo, 57, of Buffalo, N.Y., who was convicted of stealing $210,000 from the City of Buffalo, a Governmental agency which receives federal funding, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The defendant has also been ordered to pay $210,000 in restitution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O'Donnell, who handled the case, stated that the defendant was employed by the City of Buffalo for approximately 30 years. In 2003, Bagarozzo began working as a parking meter mechanic for the City. In that capacity, the defendant was responsible for repairing defective parking meter machines, but was not authorized to collect any money deposited into the machines.
Beginning in July 2003 and continuing through December 2011, instead of making necessary repairs, Bagarozzo intentionally damaged in excess of 75 parking meters. Those efforts made it easier for the defendant to steal quarters inserted into the meters by the public. The defendant stored the stolen quarters in bags in his car or in his pants pockets. Bagarozzo used the money to pay for personal expenses and the expenses of his family members.
The Government's evidence included statements from employees at a local bank where Bagarozzo regularly deposited large quantities of the stolen quarters. Bank tellers stated that the defendant would deposit between $3,000 and $5,000 a week.
In 2011, the City of Buffalo's Department of Parking Enforcement initiated a review of parking meters after suspecting that quarters were being stolen from the meters. Subsequently, video surveillance was conducted which showed that the defendant stole quarters from the meters on a daily basis.
"What may have begun as a theft of nickels and dimes, in the end was the equivalent of a major bank heist,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “This defendant admitted stealing almost a quarter million dollars which would have gone to the residents of Buffalo. That the defendant operated day in and day out over eight years, committed his crimes while on City time using City vehicles, and utilized his mechanic skills to alter parking meters and make his thefts easier, rank this as one of the more egregious breaches of honesty, ethics, and the public trust Buffalo has seen.”
U.S. Attorney Hochul further stated, “Let this case serve as yet another reminder that whether white collar, blue collar, or no collar, none is immune from prosecution if they violate their oath to the public or break the laws of this nation.”
Bagarozzo was arrested in December 2011 along with another employee, Lawrence Charles, who was also employed as a parking meter mechanic. Charles pleaded guilty to a similar charge on September 4, 2012 and will be sentenced on August 29, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.
The arrests are the culmination of an investigation on the part Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.