How One Man Stole $210,000 in Parking Meter Quarters

Every detail of this story is amazing.

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AP

Every detail of this story is amazing. Thank you, James Bagarozzo.

The middle-aged Buffalo parking meter mechanic was just sentenced to 30 months in prison for swiping what amounted to 10,000 pounds worth of quarters out of city meters over a period of eight years. Here is how the FBI tells the story (bold emphasis theirs):

James Bagarozzo, who had been employed by the city for more than three decades, became a parking meter mechanic in 2003—but instead of repairing the meters, he and an accomplice rigged more than 75 of them so he could steal quarters. Over time, his small-change crime added up.

Old-school mechanical parking meters actually aren't that easy for city employees to raid. The people who repair these things don't normally have access to the coin canisters. But Bagarozzo and an accomplice tampered with a fraction of the city's 1,200 older meters so that the coins never dropped into the canisters and they could collect the loot themselves.

Modified parking meter parts from the case, courtesy of the FBI

Bagarozzo then brought the quarters home, rolled them, and eventually took them to a local bank under the guise of a guy connected to a vending machine business. The local bank tellers never had a clue. When Bagarozzo was finally caught in December of 2011, he had more than $40,000 in cash and coins hiding in his home, much of it stashed in his bedroom ceiling.

The city finally caught the guys after parking officials realized their new electronic meters were bringing in significantly more money than the old mechanical ones. Bagarozzo and another city employee, Lawrence Charles, were eventually caught on camera as the culprits, and Bagarozzo pleaded guilty last year.

The lesson in all this? It is definitely time to upgrade your parking meters if your city still uses these things. Our favorite detail in the story comes via TIME:

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.

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.