Electricity thieves face community service

POSTED: 02/8/13 1:21 PM

St. Maarten – Johnny and Roberto S. will hear on February 27 the verdict from the Court of First Instance in a weird case of electricity theft. The two brothers, part of a family that owns a supermarket, are charged with stealing electricity worth 36,000 guilders (a bit over $20,000) from Gebe for their store. Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp demanded yesterday a 1-year conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation against the two brothers. Roberto will have to do 180 hours of community service and Johnny 240 hours if it is up to the prosecution.

Attorney Cor Merx said that his clients have started to repay the utilities company. After two payments, there is still an outstanding balance of $13,000.

The supermarket’s electricity meter was “fixed” by a man called Baptist, an ex-employee of Gebe. Johnny S. had set up the scam with him. When three months later his brother Roberto, who does the company’s administration, sounded the alarm because the electricity bill had inexplicably dropped by one third, Johnny told him, “It’s okay.”

mr. Merx said that the main charge against his clients was theft, and the secondary charge laundering. “The first charge carries a maximum penalty of 4 years, the secondary charge carries 12 years,” Merx said, adding that usually the charge with the severest penalty comes first.

After the former Gebe-employee had manipulated the electricity meter, the company constantly encountered problems with its power supply. A Gebe-report initially stated that one of two phases in the meter had been manipulated; later the company’s head of security said that there was a 3-phase connection.

“That should lead to an acquittal because in that case my clients did not receive any power,” mr. Merx reasoned.
Prosecutor Van der Wulp considered that breaking and entering could not be proven in the case of Roberto S. But because he had known about the manipulated meter after three months, the charge for simple theft stood. The prosecution dropped the laundering-charge after Merx pointed out that the charge should have been fencing.

mr. Merx made light of the case by telling the court that stealing from Gebe is not all that bad. “They leave their clients high and dry two or three times a week as well.”

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