Meter Mechanic to Be Jailed for Years of Thefts

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -

From the moment parking meter mechanic James Bagarozzo began his scheme to steal from the machines, his life became overrun with quarters. He stashed them in his pockets, in a sack in his truck, in closets at his house.

Over eight years, he brought home $210,000 worth of quarters — 10,500 pounds of them — which he dutifully rolled and packed in $500 boxes to be exchanged for bills at banks on his lunch hour.

On Friday, a judge imposed a two-and-a-half-year sentence on Bagarozzo, who blamed a gambling addiction and an illness he believed would kill him before he built a nest egg for his family.

From 2003 through 2011, the meter mechanic spent the first half of every workday stealing from 70 to 75 meters. Rather than fixing machines, he broke them so that quarters would collect on top, where he could grab them.

Bagarozzo came under scrutiny in 2011 after Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed the city’s new computerized pay stations were bringing in much more money than the old quarter-fed meters. Since the arrests, annual meter revenue has increased by more than $500,000.

“What may have begun as a theft of nickels and dimes was, in the end, the equivalent of a major bank heist,” U.S. Attorney William Hochul said.

Investigators found $40,000 in cash in the ceiling of Bagarozzo’s bedroom, $4,100 in a dresser and $3,000 worth of quarters in closets in bags and boxes. Bagarozzo’s lawyer said that the stealing began in 2003 following an episode of Crohn’s disease that left him believing he would die soon.

“He said he was worried about his wife and two teenage daughters and that they would have little if he died,” the lawyer wrote.