Stealing electricity is now costing one man more than just money.
Calvin Turner, 53, faces two years behind bars. He pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of theft after stealing electricity in Anderson. Turner, who now lives in Georgia, committed the crimes from early 2010 until March 2012.
Susie Stapleton, Anderson City Utilities Manager, said his power was disconnected in 2009 after he racked up more than $7,281 in unpaid electric bills.
In the two years that followed, Turner managed to steal more than $10,000 of power right under the city’s nose.
That’s why the utility developed a task force to crack down on the crime.
“This here is actually back behind the meter, the meter goes over this, these are cables,” Stapleton said as she showcased a picture of Turner’s meter.
She says the cables in the picture shouldn’t have been there.
“He had actually jumped the meter, back behind the meter, had somebody climb with vice grips to hook up the wires. So he had power at his residence and at his business,” she said.
Turner doesn’t live at this home anymore. The power is off. It’s the same way at his old business.
The energy theft is over, but the aftershock of his crimes continues.
“Here in Anderson we’re trying to keep the rates down. And unfortunately we have to make up what we’ve lost and this is over $10,000,” Stapleton said.
“I do know they have a number of cases right now,” said meter supervisor Dan Malone.
He has seen all kinds of power thieves in his 40-year career. He even keeps a few souvenirs to prove it.
“We kind of call these ‘jumpers’,” he said as he held up half of a steel kitchen utensil once used by an energy thief. “The power will go through these instead of the meter.”
Using these little tools doesn’t only bring the risk of jail time, but also serious injury or death.
Once someone jumps a meter, it’s not often left in the safest condition.
“Anyone can go up there and accidentally touch that. Or a kid inquisitively, go up and touch it, and be electrocuted on the spot,” he said.
It’s why the city put together a team of fraud investigators in hopes of catching energy theft quicker, and more often.
“We are working with the police department about placing warrants to hold them accountable for the things that they’ve done,” Stapleton said.
Anderson Light and Power can spot energy theft through a computer system. It can show who is using power at a given time, even if they shouldn’t be. But the utility also needs help from the public.
If anyone sees something suspicious, like someone removing a meter who shouldn’t, you can call police, Crime Stoppers, or the utility directly.
Duke Energy. The company actually has a form people can fill out on its website if they spot energy theft.