Cottoned on Homeowner's power grab fails as cotton bud in meter is found
Meet the homeowner who used a cotton bud to stop his meter and fiddle the ESB out of €1,800.
But Carrick-on-Shannon man Anthony Stokes was warned his zany plot could have resulted in his house burning down or, worse, his death.
Power-hungry Stokes had another man, who he refused to identify, drill two holes in the meter and then inserted the cotton bud to stop the power meter dial in its tracks.
But the ESB cottoned on to his antics after intelligence was provided to their accounts monitoring department.
Approached at his home this week, Stokes told the Sunday World he did not want to go into the details of his power grab.
"No, no, I'm not going to talk about that … it's over and done with now," he said.
Asked whether he would be willing to identify the person who interfered with the meter to us, Stokes responded 'no, no' before shutting his front door.
The dangers of interfering with an ESB meter have been well publicised.
On its website, the ESB warns: "It is dangerous and illegal to tamper with an electricity meter or to procure someone else to tamper with it.
"Meter tampering or any electrical interference poses significant dangers to the people involved, to members of the public, the emergency services and ESB Networks staff."
The ESB also warns that "meter tampering is easily detected" adding "we have a dedicated team who identify those involved.
"It is ESB Network's policy to take criminal proceedings against anyone who has interfered with a meter."
Appearing before Carrick on Shannon District Court, Stokes was prosecuted, convicted and fined €300 for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful interference with ESB property at his address on May 5, 2017.
Catherine Walsh from ESB said the Revenue Protection department discovered the interference on the foot of intelligence received.
"Two holes were found drilled into the ESB meter and a cotton bud was inserted into the holes to stop the meter," she explained.
Ms Walsh said drilling into a live meter could result in "fire or a fatality."
She said inserting a bud into the meter was "putting someone's life at risk."
The electricity company estimated about €1,793 was lost in revenue.
This money, the court heard, was paid in full by Stokes.
The ESB also replaced the meter and sent an invoice to the defendant for €200, which was not paid.
Mr Stokes, who pleaded guilty to the offence, said he had requested a payment plan to allow him to pay back €200.
Judge Kevin Kilrane asked him why three years on he had not paid the invoice or attended the meeting called by the ESB.
Mr Stokes said he "ignored the letter" but he paid the estimate of loss and is willing to pay for the meter.
In the end, Mr Stokes said he would pay €200 in court "to get it over and done with."
When asked if he had drilled the holes himself, the defendant said, "A fellow done it for me, I didn't do it."
He added: "He told me how to fiddle it."
Judge Kilrane said this case was a serious matter and someone's life could have been in danger.
"Under the provisions of the Energy Act 2012, an offence of unlawfully interfering with any article (including a meter) owned by ESB Networks can carry penalties ranging from a fine of up to €5,000, up to six months in prison or both."
If you suspect someone has tampered with an electricity meter you can make a report in total confidence by calling 1800 211 827.
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