Parking Meter Mechanic Sentenced for Stealing $210,000 in Quarters

The city employee would roll the coins on his lunch break and stash them in his bedroom ceiling

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U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York / AP

In this Oct. 13, 2011 image taken from surveillance video and released by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, former parking meter mechanic James Bagarozzo lifts a bag of quarters off the the seat of a truck while working his job in Buffalo, N.Y.

Maybe the urge to keep loose change in his pocket was simply too much.

If so, that urge will now cost James Bagarozzo, a Buffalo, N.Y., parking meter mechanic,  far more than he ever got from stealing $210,000 from the curbside machines.

On Friday, Bagarozzo, 57, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for the thefts, which he got away with for more than eight years between 2003 and 2011 by using his technical skills to rig about 70 city meters so that he could collect from them, then exchange the coins for cash at a local bank during his lunch hours. In total, he rolled more than 10,000 pounds of quarters.

(MORE:  Why Parking in Cities Should Be Way More Expensive)

A co-worker, Lawrence Charles, collaborated with Bagarozzo and stole $15,000 in quarters over a five year period, prosecutors said.  He is set to be sentenced on Aug. 29.

The two workers got caught after Buffalo parking commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed that the digital pay stations the city uses were making more money than the old quarter-fed machines, according to court documents. An investigation was launched and video surveillance footage showed that Bagarozzo was stealing from the old meters on a daily basis.

After being questioned by the FBI, Bagarozzo admitted to the thefts, which constitute a federal crime, and was arrested in December of 2011. A search of his home turned up $40,000 in cash stashed in his bedroom ceiling.

Since Bagarozzo and Charles were arrested, yearly parking meter revenue in the city has increased by $500,000. The current machines in Buffalo are computerized and take credit cards and coins, and are nearly impossible to rob.

Bagarozzo apologized in a brief statement to the U.S. District Court: “I have hit rock bottom and I have had to come up with my family and friends,” he said. Bagarozzo’s attorney James Harrington said the thefts came from a gambling addiction that got out of control. “It was rooted really in this spiraling addiction that he had,” he told the Associated Press.

(MORE:  Chicago’s Parking Meter Debacle: The Check Is Not in the Mail)

Stealing from parking meters is not unique to this case, however. In 2012,  a Fort Lauderdale man and woman were charged in the theft of more than $65,000 from parking meters. In 2009, an Alexandria,  Va., meter repairman was accused of stealing $170,000 in coins from the machines.

16 comments
DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

In the meantime, Philip Falcone and Harbinger Capital Partners made 1.7 billion dollars defrauding investors and are fined 18 million dollars (or about one percent) and Falcone can't play with investments for 5 years.

No jail time.

This guy was thinking chump change.  If he had stolen 215 million dollars, he'd be able to keep most of it and wouldn't be allowed to play with parking meters.

You see, defrauding investors isn't a crime.  It's a civil rule violation.  No jail time for rules violations.  Stealing quarters from parking meters actually is a crime, so jail time is involved.  The moral of this story is, if you're going to steal from people, make sure how you do it isn't actually a crime with jail time involved.

MrZummo
MrZummo

Does he get a quarter to call his attorney? 

Larper
Larper

He stole from the City as the City steals from the public.  What service does the city provide?  Parking.  More people park, more people spend money, more sales tax. 

TimeTraveler28
TimeTraveler28

If you're going to steal, steal by the tens of $billions so when the government notices, they'll just look the other way and you can continue stealing. 

JdReader
JdReader

By the way that is 840,000 quarters ...

yordivorkvork
yordivorkvork

Yearly parking fees increased by $500K/yr but it took the suspect 8 years to steal $210. Nice cause and effect?

cyork40
cyork40

maybe the should remove the parking meters since tax payers paid for them 

i think the city owes us a huge sum of money

eagle11772
eagle11772

I think he's getting off too lightly.  Stealing more than $200,000 should get him at least 10 years, I believe.

Ajax
Ajax

@JdReader Also by the way, That's approximately 10,500 lbs of quarters. Remarkable heavy duty robbery.

SamuelChernov
SamuelChernov

@yordivorkvork Even the stupidest thief knows not to steal all of the loot if its happening at his place of work and he intends to return there the next day. 

adognow
adognow

@eagle11772 

Why? Major bank CEOs partake in racketeering and insider trading which made them hundreds of millions of dollars while customers lost all their money - and how many years of prison time did they get? Oh sorry, none of them were even put on trial.

Putting the small fish behind bars - that's a good case of finding a penny but losing a dollar. All the kickbacks and tax "exemptions" that city officials give business owners are already worth far more than the amount of money this guy stole.

yordivorkvork
yordivorkvork

@SamuelChernov @yordivorkvork The point is, he stole an average of $27,250 per year. The comment the author put in about a $500K increase has nothing to do with the story or the thievery.