U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York
(716) 843-5700
July 8, 2014

Buffalo Man Pleads Guilty in Towing Scandal Involving Buffalo Police Officers

BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Christopher Mahoney, 30, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara, for conspiring to pay bribes to City of Buffalo police officers. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.

“Today’s conviction for bribery exposes a ‘pay to play’ scheme in the Buffalo towing service industry,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “As admitted by this defendant, certain police officers were paid in exchange for notification and call-out to motor vehicle accident scenes. This Office will bring to justice those who would corrupt a branch of government or seek to create an uneven playing field through payment of bribes.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito, Jr., who is handling the prosecution, stated that James Mazzariello, Jr. owned and operated Jim Mazz Auto, Inc. and National Towing, Inc. The companies were involved in all aspects of the automobile towing and repair business, including collision repair work, mechanical repair work, towing and storage work, and the sale of used automobiles. Adam Mazzariello, the son of James Mazzariello, Jr., supervised the towing services aspect of the businesses. Christopher Mahoney served in a managerial capacity for each of the businesses.

Mahoney admitted that between January 2009 and May 2012, 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 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. James Mazzariello, Jr. directed and authorized Christopher Mahoney to make reimbursement payments to the tow truck operators. Mahoney made reimbursement payments to tow truck operators on a regular basis and often times used cash from the Jim Mazz Auto cash drawer to make such payments.

While the plea agreement does not specify the exact number of bribe payments made by the tow truck operators to Buffalo Police Officers, the government, through its investigation and prior to the time defendant Mahoney expressed a desire to plead guilty, substantiated and examined, in detail, 19 different bribe 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.

James Mazzariello, Jr. and Adam Mazzariello are under indictment for conspiring to pay bribes to City of Buffalo police officers. James Mazzariello, Jr. is also charged with filing false corporate tax returns and false personal tax returns for calendar years 2009 and 2010.

The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Shantelle P. Kitchen, Acting Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Office, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Criminal Division, under the direction of Owen McShane, Director of Investigations, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of Upstate Chief of Investigations Pat Simet, the New York State Department of Financial Services Criminal Investigations Unit, under the direction of Director Frank Orlando, and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.

Mahoney is scheduled to be sentenced on October 20, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Arcara.

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