A judge ordered a Port Richmond man to pay $346,750 in restitution to PECO after he pleaded guilty to helping 25 businesses and residential properties tamper with their meters in order to get lower electric bills. He’ll also receive 7 years probation and has to perform 60 hours of community service.
Like when a rogue cable guy is busted, the reaction to these types of scams is generally: Hey! Why didn’t I know about that? (Note: Don’t actually tamper with your meter.) The scam ran from 2009 to 2012, when state police finally arrested 47-year-old Marcelino Cuadra. He was paid monthly by each of the 25 people he was altering meters for. PECO first got wind of the plan when it noticed unusual usage patterns in the five-county area. Cuadra tampered with meters in all five Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, including five in Philadelphia.
Cuadra was never a PECO employee or licensed electrician, which makes his scam even more remarkable. He bought tools (and fake PECO seals) online in order to cover up his tampering. Sometimes he stopped the meter from running; other times he had it record at a reduced rate.
The companies and residences Cuadra worked for were only identified by account number in court, but — as part of his plea agreement — Cuadra must testify against any of the people he helped scam PECO. Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Sophia Polites said at Friday's hearing that criminal charges have been filed against several account holders, but didn't have any more information. Just wait for the other shoe to drop, I suppose.