Accused ‘sign bandit’ frustrates neighborhood residents

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Jeff McShan / KHOU 11 News

Posted on April 8, 2011 at 12:28 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 8 at 1:14 PM

HOUSTON -- The City of Houston says a convicted robber turned personal trainer  is now frustrating residents by leaving illegal advertising signs across area neighborhoods.

Residents said, despite complaints, Joe Bronikowski, 58, won't stop putting the signs up, nailing them to anything he can find.
 
City of Houston worker Reginald Harris said his crew of some 30 employees picks up nearly 15,000 illegal signs a month and finding major offenders, like Joe Bronikowski, is not easy.

“It is pretty tough. A lot of times we try and call the numbers that are actually on the bandit signs. The individuals on the other end tend to play tricks, they use phones that are pre-paid phones. They use answering services to try and throw us off,” he said.

KHOU 11 News called the number for Bronikowski's business and got his voicemail but he called back and said the illegal signs were not put up by him.

“Oh no, I’m strictly a fitness, physical fitness trainer, strength conditioning coach,” he said.

He said the signs must have been put up by an advertising company he hired to generate business.

Searching court records and talking with the city we learned Bronikowski has been fined more than 92 times and received $60,000 worth of fines in the last 5 years.

“Even after being dragged down to court (in 2003) and having a $12,000 fine and scheduled payments set for $500 a month, he is still out here eight years later,” KHOU 11 News viewer Richard Lazear said.

Bronikowski said the sign ordinance is just a money-making machine for the city, but he says, more often than not, he doesn't pay a fine at all because the city doesn't show up in court.

“Last time I went, $4,000 in fines, what happen the judge, they didn't show up and the judge threw them all out. That's the second time the judge has thrown them all out,” he said.

The city said it's because Bronikowski is a master at resetting cases, and often turns himself in on a Friday night and bails out before the weekend ends.

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