An Indiana resident faced felony charges after allegedly altering his home’s utilities to receive several years of free services. As reported by Eagle Country 99.3, detectives received pictures taken of the homeowner’s basement showing a connection bypassing an installed natural gas line.
Detectives entered the home with a search warrant and discovered a gas bypass line made of flex tubing. The line led to a replacement pressure regulator not included with the installation of the original services. After alerting the utility company, the services provider found an alleged bypass system that diverted water from the company’s usage meter.
The charges reflected theft and corrupt business influence offenses
Service records showed the home’s water usage dropped from 6,000 gallons per month to a minimum of 2,200 gallons each month over about nine years. Gas usage records showed consumption dropped to zero, although the average for a similar home is about 5,500 cubic feet.
Officials charged the homeowner with two counts of felony theft and one felony count of corrupt business influence. According to Indiana law, to obtain a conviction on the theft charges the prosecution must prove he exerted unauthorized control over the utility company’s property. The corrupt business influence charge requires proving he intentionally and knowingly received a benefit from engaging in a repeated pattern of illicit activities.
A plea deal may reduce charges
Officials may combine felony theft and corrupt business influence charges so that a defendant accepts a plea deal. In a case reported by Fox59.com, a defendant facing six felony theft charges and one count of corrupt business influence pleaded guilty to the theft charges. The prosecution then dropped the corrupt business influence charge.
Entering into a plea deal may result in a lesser charge or reduced sentence. A defendant also has a legal right to counter a prosecutor’s claims with evidence showing errors in the allegations.