Towing business manager admits “pay to play” scheme

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – One of three men who worked for Jim Mazz Auto charged in a scheme to obtain towing contracts in the City of Buffalo has pleaded guilty to bribing a police officer.

Christopher Mahoney, 30, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to one count of conspiracy to pay bribes and gratuities. Mahoney, a business manager at the Bailey Avenue business, was indicted along with company owner James Mazzariello, Jr. and his son, Adam Mazzariello, last fall on accusations that they paid bribes to a Buffalo Police officer in exchange for the right to tow cars from crash scenes.

Mahoney will be sentenced on October 20 and could receive about 18- to 24-months in prison under sentencing guidelines. Federal Judge Richard Arcara says he is not bound to those guidelines. Mahoney has agreed to cooperate with agents in the case against the other defendants.

Between January 2009 and May 2012, Mahoney admitted Jim Mazz Auto tow truck operators, at the direction of James Mazzariello, Jr. and Adam Mazzariello, made payments to certain City of Buffalo police officers for their assistance in enabling Jim Mazz tow truck operators to tow motor vehicles damaged in accidents in the City of Buffalo.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says tow truck operators made these bribe payments from their own personal funds and subsequently sought reimbursement from James Mazzariello, Jr., Adam Mazzariello and Christopher Mahoney. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, James Mazzariello Jr. directed Mahoney to make payments to operators, often from the Jim Mazz Auto cash drawer.

Mahoney’s attorney, James Harrington, said, “He was directed to do certain things, which he did. It actually is kind of foolishly done because there’s records made of the conduct that shouldn’t have happened right in the books, pretty easy for anybody to see.”

The plea agreement doesn’t specify the number of bribe payments, but before Mahoney decided to plead guilty, officials had examined 19 different payments made by tow truck operators. Approximately $500 in payments were made to Buffalo Police officers by tow truck operators for access to the tows of the 19 accidents examined.

The gross revenue Jim Mazz Auto derived from making such bribe payments totaled $43,022.74. The gross revenue consisted of payments made to Jim Mazz Auto for towing, as well as for mechanical and collision repair work.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 find or both.

Jim Mazz Auto doesn’t respond to most crash scenes anymore in Buffalo. Just last month the city reached a contract with three other towing companies that will have exclusive towing rights on a rotating weekly basis.

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