Conman scams €50,000 from Bord Gais customers
A MAN posing as a reputable gas technician has made off with at least €50,000 from his customers over the past year.
The conman operated across Dublin and promised householders that he would connect their homes to the gas supply at a reduced fee.
He then bypassed the meters and customers were able to obtain a month's gas supply by buying a cheap, prepaid card and ended up paying a fraction of the cost.
But Bord Gais warned last night that tampering with a meter created a potential safety risk and put the lives of the householders, their neighbours and others in danger.
Initial inquiries by the gardai and Bord Gais identified 10 houses that had been linked up illegally to the supply. But their investigation since then has provided evidence that at least 240 homes could be affected.
The conman charged a lesser fee to people who were known to him and more to other customers. Gardai estimate he could have taken up to €50,000 in the scam.
Homes identified so far are situated across the greater Dublin area. Gardai believe the conman secured customers through "word of mouth".
Following a breakthrough in their inquiries this week, officers from the south central divisional crime task force secured a warrant to search a home in the Kilmainham area.
A man in his 30s was arrested and detained for questioning at Kilmainham garda station.
Gardai also searched 10 other houses and found tampering with their gas supply while their meters had been damaged.
Officials from Bord Gais accompanied gardai on the searches and seized the tampered meters as evidence while fitting replacements.
The suspect has now been released from custody without charge. Officers will prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Garda Supt Dave Taylor said yesterday: "This scam poses a significant safety concern.
"Unauthorised interference with the supply is potentially a danger to the premises and could result in a fire or a gas leak," he added.
Gardai admitted that the full extent of the scam had not yet been determined and said their investigation was ongoing.
Bord Gais official John Memery said they had noted an increase in gas meter tampering throughout the country, with a growing number of tip-offs from the public and a rise in the detection of tampering.
Mr Memery said Bord Gais was aware of the financial difficulties that gas customers were experiencing but he warned that tampering with a meter was not a solution.
"The consequences could be costly or even fatal," he added.
He advised people who suspected cases of meter tampering to report them to Bord Gais on 1850 200 694.