Fourth City of Buffalo Employee Pleads Guilty to Stealing Thousands of Dollars from Parking Meters
BUFFALO, N.Y.-- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Franklin Lopez, 33, of Buffalo, N.Y., pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the City of Buffalo, a Governmental agency which receives federal funding, before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
“Two and a half years ago, the public first learned of wide spread corruption in this City department,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Thanks to the continuing efforts of law enforcement and current City officials, we can now report that a fourth Parking Enforcement employee has been convicted of stealing tens of thousands of dollars over a multi-year period of time. While seldom have we seen a single department so riddled with criminals, the public can rest assured that we will not stop until all who broke the law are brought to justice.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O'Donnell, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant was employed part time as a coin collector for in the City of Buffalo Department of Parking Enforcement between 2002 and 2011. In this capacity, Lopez was responsible for collecting coins deposited into parking meters.
On August 16, 2011, Buffalo Police found over $1,300 in coins inside the defendant's work vehicle, money that was supposed to be deposited into the city treasury. Further investigation, including a review of Lopez's banking records, revealed a substantial amount of cash deposits and cash payments for a variety of items. Between November 2002 and August 2011, Lopez stole approximately $69,000 from city parking meters.
With today’s conviction, the amount of money proven to be stolen by the convicted defendants exceeds $300,000.
Lopez is the fourth employee of the Department of Parking Enforcement to be convicted in this case. James Bagarozzo was convicted of stealing over $200,000 from Buffalo parking meters and sentenced to 30 months in prison on August 16, 2013. Bagarozzo was also ordered to pay $210,000 in restitution. Lawrence Charles has also been convicted of stealing over $10,000 from Buffalo parking meters and was sentenced to six months and prison and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Francis Tronolone was convicted of stealing $9,000 in coins from city parking meters and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 15, 2014.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.