Make us your home page
Instagram

Meter tampering, electricity theft on the rise

Beware: Tampering with your electric meter can land you in jail.

Investigations by Duke Energy found cases throughout the utility's Florida service area where customers' bills decreased because of illegal adjustments to their electric meters.

"It is fair to say we are seeing this type of scheme across the state," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke Energy spokesman.

The problem has grown worse recently, in particular across Central Florida, Ivey said. More than a dozen suspected cases in Polk County led to four arrests for grand theft, electricity theft and obtaining property by fraud.

A conviction on the grand theft and fraud charges are third-degree felonies that carry a maximum five-year sentence. Theft of electricity is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Police arrested one homeowner for grand theft and fraud and charged him with stealing $3,400 worth of electricity over two years. Francisco Paredes of Haines City told police that his average bill was $100 to $200 but that dropped to $10.48. "He continued paying this amount without rectifying his payments with Duke Energy," a police report said.

Ramiro Gudino Morales of Haines City told police that the $2,100 he owed to Duke Energy was the result of a man visiting his home in the spring, offering services to lower his bill.

After paying the man $200, Morales' bill "was dramatically lower; approximately $10.48," according to a police report.

Duke Energy investigators examined meters in Polk County and found that someone stopped the meters from recording electricity usage by disabling them at the socket that connected the units to homes.

"We are aware of the customer's statement that an individual offered a service to reduce their electric costs, and we are working closely with law enforcement as the investigation into this person continues," Ivey said.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office has issued a warrant for the arrest of Roberto Hernandez-Moreno, 38, of Winter Park in connection with tampering with electric meters at various homes.

Hernandez-Moreno faces charges of tampering with a utility device, scheming to defraud and grand theft after homeowners. At this time, his whereabouts are unknown.

Neither Duke Energy nor Tampa Electric will show up to your home unannounced to offer services. Both utilities offer free home energy audits, which help homeowners find ways to reduce their electricity costs.

Utilities offer the energy audits at the customer's request, but those services do not include tinkering with the electric meter.

The state Public Service Commission and utility companies have been warning customers in recent months of a rash of scams. Often someone calls customers and suggests they have not paid the utility bill. The caller then seeks the consumer's personal information to defraud them.

"Tampa Electric and all utilities in the Tampa Bay area will never ask for your credit card number over the phone," said Cherie Jacobs, a Tampa Electric spokeswoman. "We will always carry identification. And if there is ever a question … you can always call customer service."

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Meter tampering, electricity theft on the rise 07/02/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 8:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]