2 City Workers Rig Parking Meters; Allegedly Steal Thousands

6:37 PM, Dec 13, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Two Buffalo City workers accused of stealing thousands of dollars from parking meters were arrested Monday by FBI agents.

James Bagarozzo, 56 and Lawrence Charles, 39, both of Buffalo, were arrested and charged with stealing thousands of dollars from the City of Buffalo. 

Read the complaint against James Bagarozzo here.

Read the complain against Lawrence Charles here.

They are both employed as parking meter mechanics for the city, Bagarozzo for more than 20 years, Lawrence for more than 10 years.

Investigators say between 2003 to 2011, Bagarozzo allegedly stole an estimated $210,000 from the parking meters he was charged with repairing.  The criminal complaint states the parking commissioner hired a private investigator to follow the 2 men.

During a search of his home, FBI agents say they recovered approximately $40,000 hidden in the ceiling of the defendant's bathroom as well as $3,000 in quarters and another $4,100 in cash.

Charles is accused of stealing between $3,363 and $4,712 in one 32 day period, and additional funds over various months in the time period from 2009 to 2011.

Officials also say that both men rigged parking meter machines in order to make the money collect in an area of the machine easier to access and steal.

Kevin Helfer, the commissioner of parking for the city of Buffalo, says he noticed significantly lower revenue coming from some older style parking meters.  Helfer says he carefully watched the numbers then called Buffalo Police and the FBI to watch the 2 men.  A source tells Channel 2, investigators had GPS units and cameras installed in the city cars without Bagarozza and Lawrence knowing, then caught them in the act on camera.

A source also tells Channel 2 that Bagarozzo and Lawrence would change out of their city of Buffalo uniforms and leave their city cars at home while they traded in coins allegedly taken from parking meters.  After they exchanged the money, the two would change back into their work clothes and go back to work.  Sources say it was all caught on camera.

"Public corruption by an employee at any level of government is a breach of the public's trust," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "This Office stands committed to pursuing any allegations regarding public corruption wherever it occurs. This case should serve as a warning to any individual who would consider committing similar behavior."

"Today's developments demonstrate the FBI's continued commitment to identify and defeat public corruption on all organizational levels," said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Piehota."With the initial and continual support of the City of Buffalo's Parking Commissioner, Kevin Helfer, the FBI and the Buffalo Police Department worked collaboratively to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion."

The Mayor's office says both Bagarozzo and Charles have been suspended from their duties, pending a hearing for termination.

They could both face a maximum pentalty of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000.

Click on the video link above to see Marissa Bailey's report.

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