BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - In a case where two former city workers have already been sentenced for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from parking meters, a third man is now facing charges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says 33-year-old Franklin Lopez of Buffalo pocketed a fortune in coins. Despite earning $9 an hour and working part-time, prosecutors say Lopez made substantial cash deposits into his bank account and cash payments for two boats, a jet ski and a moped, as well as a $10,000 cash down payment for a car.
Lopez pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday.
MORE | Read the full complaint here
When Buffalo Police searched Lopez's work vehicle, officers allegedly found $1,300 in coins. It was money prosecutors say was supposed to be turned over to the city. Two co-workers allegedly spotted Lopez helping himself to the coins.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul said, "And at least one of those two employees admitted himself, from time to time, stealing quarters from the City of Buffalo."
Three months after Lopez was spotted in August 2011, federal officials arrested former parking meter mechanics James Bagarozzo and Lawrence Charles, both of whom have since been convicted on theft charges. Bagarozzo is serving a 30-month sentence; Charles is still awaiting his fate.
Hochul suspects Lopez has stolen as much as $89,000 in quarters and raised suspicions living the high life on a city salary.
"How can a $9 an hour part time coin collector manage to pay cash exceeding $89,000 for either rent payments, a down payment for a truck, while also owning multiple boats, a jet ski, and a moped?" Hochul wondered.
Government officials say their investigation is ongoing and there may yet be more arrests.
Lopez remains out of jail, without having to post bond. Prosecutors say they are considering steps to take away all of the items Lopez purchased using money allegedly stolen from taxpayers.
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