Criminal gangs are hot-wiring meters for as little as £10, and cowboy meddlers are using bicycle inner tubes to divert gas supplies. Sadly, it’s often the unknowing neighbours and customers whose lives are placed in serious danger.

They say you can’t put a price on human life. But that’s exactly what one restaurant owner recently did: putting his customers at risk just to save on his business’s gas bills.

A repeat offender

One of our own Revenue Protection Unit (RPU) officers was called in by local police to help investigate a restaurant that was still trading, despite having had its electricity cut off since 2013.

And they were right to be suspicious: five other properties owned by the same customer had recently been raided, revealing a number of activities.

Inspecting the meter, the officer found that an illegal fuse carrier had been attached with crocodile clips – and with a reading of almost 16 amps running through it, he wasn’t surprised to see and smell the burnt meter box. Acting swiftly, he called the local network operators, who soon arrived to disconnect the restaurant’s supply from the street.

Lives at risk

Suspecting further fiddling, he moved on to take a look in the gas meter cupboard. But that gas meter hadn’t just been tampered with – it had been completely removed!

Overwhelmed by the smell of leaking gas, the officer quickly arranged for the restaurant to be evacuated, and brought in the local gas operators so they could make the restaurant safe.

On top of finding that a water valve had been installed in the ground to illegally divert the supply, they discovered that the gas flue had been redirected to the inside of the building – which meant that everyone inside had been in serious danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The tip of the iceberg

After disconnecting all the supplies from the street, the local Council and Environmental Health Officers shut down the restaurant, and the police arrested the customer – not just for energy theft, but for a number of offences, including possession of stolen goods and growing cannabis.

The customer is currently awaiting trial. And, thanks in part to the keen eyes – and nose – of our RPU officer, the restaurant’s customers are safe from harm due to a deadly gas.

Has someone near you been caught fiddling with their meters? And could you stand idly by while you and your neighbours’ lives were placed in danger? Join the discussion on LinkedIn and Google+.

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