By Seth Daniel
If the Revere Department of Public Works (DPW) were a potato, then all of its thousands of eyes would be blackened.
The department suffered yet another black eye this week when longtime DPW carpenter Michael Ferragamo, 47, of 65 McKinley St., was arrested and charged with numerous felonies related to allegations that he stole hundreds of signs from the City Yard and sold them for scrap.
Police arrested Ferragamo, 22-year veteran of the DPW and son of former Building Inspector Stanley Ferragamo, last Thursday evening at the station, after a lengthy interview.
Ferragamo allegedly admitted to police that he had committed the crime.
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said on Monday that Ferragamo was on a five-day suspension without pay and that they would conduct a termination hearing this week.
Ferragamo allegedly stole anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 metal signs from the City Yard Sign Shop, while the signmaker was out of work because of a death in the family. Ferragamo apparently sold them to an Everett scrap yard for around $500 to $700.
Police said they broke the case due to the fact that increased security had been implemented at the City Yard in the last year.
“We had some video and some GPS records, and based on GPS in City Yard vehicles, we were able to track the activities of Michael Ferragamo consistent with having taken the signs and having sold them at a [scrap] yard in Everett,” said Capt. Michael Murphy. “It appears he used a city vehicle for all the transactions.”
Increased security at the City Yard was something that Councillor George Rotondo called for in a singular voice – with many on the Council and in the administration admonishing him over the years for making such proposals.
“Clearly, this is a reason why I felt it was important to have GPS and cameras at the City Yard,” he said. “After great ridicule from members of the council and the administration, this has proven to be an effective way to ensure accountability at the DPW. My biggest question is that after asking for a security assessment, why did this happen in the first place?”
The event is just one of many in a string of sad stories circulating around the DPW.
Two weeks ago, a Revere city councillor accused the DPW superintendent of assault during a wake at a local funeral home.
Last winter, DPW Superintendent Don Goodwin claimed that DPW workers were sabotaging the pothole repair truck in order to keep it off the roadways. That has still not been resolved.
Last year, the department was the focus of an audit that was performed by the State Auditor’s office at the behest of the city and revealed important safeguards were missing from the yard.
Finally, also last year, the DPW was the center of a State Ethics Commission hearing into an alleged bribery of a DPW supervisor by two DPW workers – allegations that were discarded after a long and lengthy hearing process.
The most recent case started on May 28, when the sign shop at the City Yard had been entered, allegedly by Ferragamo, and many blank signs stolen. The same scenario unfolded on Friday, May 29, and on Monday, June 1.
The thefts were discovered on Wednesday, June 3, when the signmaker returned to work, and immediately informed police of the theft.
Detective Thomas Malone worked the case and used City Yard alarm reports, surveillance cameras and GPS tracking to narrow the investigation down to Ferragamo.
Ferragamo allegedly had been ordered to change the locks on the sign shop about a year ago, but officials now believe that he never actually changed those locks. Detectives also believe he used another employee’s alarm code to obtain access to the sign shop, which was off limits to other employees.
Ferragamo allegedly admitted to police that he had stolen signs before and sold them for scrap, though he couldn’t remember any dates. From that information, though, police were able to access surveillance video from March in which Ferragamo is seen outside the sign shop – actually standing up on his van and pushing the surveillance video camera in another direction, to not capture what he was doing.
He allegedly told police that he stole the signs without the knowledge of anyone else.
Nevertheless, Rotondo said he wasn’t so sure that it was a one-man operation – that maybe others could have been involved.
“I think we need to let the investigation take its course,” he said. “Who knows where it’s going to lead? With GPS and cameras, I don’t see how this could have been done in a vacuum. Someone else just may be involved.”
So far, though, police do not seem to indicate that there are any additional suspects in the theft.
Ferragamo was charged with three counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, with the intent of committing a felony, and three counts of larceny from a building.