From the moment 58-year-old parking meter mechanic James Bagarozzo began his scheme to steal from the machines, his life became overrun with quarters. He stashed them in his pockets, in a sack in his truck, in closets at his house.
Over more than eight years, he brought home $210,000 worth of quarters -- 10,500 pounds of them -- which he dutifully rolled and packed in $500 boxes to be exchanged for cash at banks on his lunch hour.
In court papers, defense attorney James Harrington wrote that Bagarozzo's stealing began in 2003 following a serious episode of Crohn's disease that left him believing he did not have long to live.
"He said he was worried about his wife and two teenage daughters and that they would have little if he died," the lawyer wrote.
On Friday, Buffalo, NY District Judge Richard Arcara imposed a 2 1/2-year sentence on Bagarozzo.
From 2003 through 2011, the meter mechanic spent the first half of every workday breaking from 70 to 75 meters, so that quarters would collect on top where he could grab them with his hands instead of dropping into the collection canister.
A former co-worker, Lawrence Charles, followed Bagarozzo's lead, stealing $15,000 in quarters over about five years, prosecutors said. He was expected to get six months to a year in prison. His sentencing also was supposed to be Friday, but it was postponed until Aug. 29.
Since the arrests, the city's annual parking meter revenue has increased by more than $500,000, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said.
Prosecutors said the money allowed Bagarozzo to send his daughters to college and pay off his mortgage, but his attorney said virtually everything was lost at casinos.