BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - News 4 was on the scene Monday afternoon as the homes of two City of Buffalo employees were raided by the FBI.
James Bagarozzo, 56, of Crestwood Avenue and Lawrence Charles, 39, of Homer Avenue were taken into custody by FBI agents on Monday, accused by the U.S. Attorney's office of stealing thousands of dollars in change from the old-style city parking meters.
The U.S. Attorney's office says the mechanics had the responsibility of repairing defective meters, but were not authorized to collect any money. Authorities say they caught the theft on video.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul explained, "The money is supposed to drop from the upper compartment, which the mechanics have the authority to investigate and then fix, and the money goes into the bottom part. The tampering consisted of instead of keeping the money in the upper part so that it would be easier for these two defendants to actually acquire."
Authorities say between 2003 and 2011, Bagarozzo rigged machines to make it easier to steal from them, ultimately taking an estimated $210,000. Federal agents say they found $40,000 hidden in the bathroom ceiling, $3,000 in quarters, and another $4,100 in cash at Bagarozzo's home.
On top of rigging machines, Charles is accused of taking around $4,000 in one 32-day period and stealing additional funds between 2009 to 2011.
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher Piehopa said, "Around Buffalo you'll see the new, modernized parking meters. And what they found was there were some noticeable differences in revenue after the parking meters were changed from the old meter types, the coin meters, to the new, improved parking meters. Revenues changed, and that's when some anomalies started to be noticed."
Mayor Byron Brown's office released a statement saying the two meter mechanics came under the suspicion of Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer this past February, and that after an internal probe, "the city referred the matter to Buffalo Police and the U.S. Attorney's office. The employees have been suspended [without pay] and pending a hearing face termination."
"Obviously the first thing you do when you take over a department, you look over your numbers, you look at your budget, you look at your resources, and I saw some things that were suspicious," Commissioner Helfer told News 4.
Both men were arraigned Monday night and face a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, a $250,000 fine, or both. Though no other employees appear to be linked to these crimes, the city is keeping an eye out.
Both men are currently free on bond.
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