Originally published on October 19, 2014, at NationofChange.org
Four employees from Buffalo’s Department of Parking Enforcement have been convicted of stealing over $300,000 in coins from the city’s parking meters over the course of almost a decade. The FBI began investigating the city employees after Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed Buffalo’s new computerized pay stations were collecting nearly ten times the amount of money brought in from the old quarter-fed parking meters. The employees have been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay back all of the money that prosecutors were able to prove they stole.
In 2011, Parking Commissioner Helfer realized the city’s new computerized stations were bringing in roughly $100,000 per month, while the older meters were only collecting $15,000 to $20,000 per month. About 128 computerized stations covering approximately 1,300 parking spots collected $100,000 each month, while roughly 1,200 older parking meters only brought in up to $20,000 per month.
On August 16, 2011, Buffalo Police discovered over $1,300 in coins hidden inside Franklin Lopez’s work vehicle. Employed part time as a coin collector for Buffalo’s Department of Parking Enforcement between 2002 and 2011, Lopez was responsible for collecting money deposited into parking meters. Instead of depositing the coins into the city treasury, Lopez made numerous cash deposits and cash payments for various items. Between November 2002 and August 2011, Lopez stole over $69,000 from Buffalo’s parking meters. On Thursday, Lopez was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay $69,000 in restitution.