Coin collector admits stealing from parking meters

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A 33-year-old Buffalo man has pleaded guilty to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the city’s parking meters.

Franklin Lopez faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura O’Donnell says Lopez stole about $69,000 from city parking meters while employed part time as a coin collector in the parking enforcement bureau between 2002 and 2011.

“He went on vacations, went on at least one cruise, went to Las Vegas on several occasions that we know of, went to New York City,” O’Donnell said.

Lopez is the fourth employee of the Department of Parking Enforcement to be convicted in the case. So far, the total amount stolen is more than $300,000.

Buffalo Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said, “I believe that justice has been served today. There’s a public trust that was violated, taxpayers’ money that was stolen.”

James Bagarozzo was the biggest offender of the group. He was convicted of stealing more than $200,000 and sentenced to 30 months in prison last August. He also was ordered to pay $210,000 in restitution.

Helfer believes as much as $600,000 was stolen from parking meters every year before he became commissioner.

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