Dominion East Ohio Investigates, Prosecutes Service Theft; Risky Criminal Behavior Endangers Lives And Property
Dominion East Ohio thoroughly investigates reports of meter tampering, unauthorized tap-ins to company mains and service lines and other forms of theft of natural gas service, and prosecutes those who engage in such dangerous criminal behavior.
"Theft of natural gas service, especially by tapping into company lines, is not only illegal, but also extremely dangerous, putting residents of affected buildings and neighboring structures at risk of injury and even death," said Jeff Murphy, Dominion East Ohio vice president and general manager.
Meters, natural gas main lines and service lines, which connect the main to the customer's home or business, are the property of Dominion East Ohio. "Tampering with these facilities in any way can create a potentially dangerous situation. An explosion or fire might cause property damage and injury, not only to the person responsible, but to others as well," Murphy said.
To illustrate the riskiness of such criminal behavior, Murphy cited the March 26, 2015, natural gas explosion in New York City's East Village neighborhood. Investigators reported that the incident resulted from an illegal tap into the utility line that fed a ground floor restaurant in the affected apartment building. The explosion and ensuing fire killed two people, injured 19 others, and destroyed the apartment building and three adjacent structures.
"Dominion East Ohio places paramount importance on the safety of our customers and employees, our system and the communities we serve," Murphy said. "Therefore, we investigate reports of such criminal activity and seek prosecution where evidence and circumstances warrant. Those who engage in this dangerous and illegal activity can face legal consequences, such as fines, making restitution or potential jail sentences."
Recently, a Cleveland area landlord was sentenced to serve the maximum six months in jail, pay a $1,000 fine and pay nearly $15,000 in restitution to Dominion East Ohio after being convicted of theft charges. The charges stemmed from numerous cases of unauthorized natural gas usage over the past four years. The company worked closely with Cuyahoga County prosecutors during the Common Pleas Court proceedings, Murphy said.
"More important than restitution, this outcome highlights the significant safety risks and potential criminal penalties associated with unauthorized natural gas usage," Murphy said. "We will continue to bring these matters to the attention of law enforcement and the prosecutor's office."
If customers know of a situation in which there may be natural gas tampering, gas theft or unauthorized usage, they should report it immediately to Dominion East Ohio, at 1-800-362-7557.
Dominion East Ohio is a unit of Dominion (NYSE: D) is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 24,600 megawatts of generation, 12,200 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 6,455 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates one of the nation's largest natural gas storage systems with 928 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves utility and retail energy customers in 13 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's website at http://www.dom.com/ or Dominion Energy Solutions at http://www.dominionenergy.com/