Woman's bills surge after mystery thief steals her electricity
A woman was left struggling to foot a massive electricity bill after she discovered somebody was siphoning off her power.
Jean has been living in the same apartment in Sydney's Dulwich Hill since the year 2000.
She told A Current Affair she paid about $200 a quarter for her electricity, but in May 2017, her bill suddenly went up.
"Someone stole my power and I had to bear the cost," Jean said.
She said the first bill to suddenly increase went up to $488, followed by one for $704.
Jean said she contacted Energy Australia, who checked her meter and told her it was functioning normally.
So she paid her bills, but they kept on climbing - while those of her partner Tom, who lives in a similar-sized apartment, remained steady.
In July 2018, Jean was billed $4870, while Tom was billed $221.85.
During the two-year period, Jean contacted Energy Australia and the Ombudsman repeated times, but nobody could get to the bottom of why she was being charged so much.
Eventually, she called out two independent electricians, who found an intermixture of supply. Unit 2 was taking power from Jean's Unit 1, and Jean was paying for it.
A written report by one of the electricians found that "Unit 2 is drawing power from Unit 1 meter and not being charged. The wiring is the cause of the excessive bills".
A second independent electrician and Ausgrid confirmed this.
"The police calculated that Unit 2 has stolen approximately $3600 from Jean, and she's also spent $1190 on electricians," Tom said.
Patrick Goodacre from E4 Electrical Group said whoever was responsible knew exactly what they were doing.
"What's been done is completely illegal," he said.
He said the modification was "100 per cent a fire hazard", and could also pose a danger to anyone touching one of the circuits for either residence.
Merlita Rodriguez, the owner of Unit 2, claimed she knew nothing about the crossed wires.
"I've never seen that before in my life," she said.
She claimed she had asked a friend, Edgar, to "fix" her electricity.
Meanwhile, Energy Australia initially told Jean she had to pay up, despite the evidence of tampering.
But after A Current Affair got involved, the energy body apologised to her.
"We have waived the bill, we've paid for the electrician who came and solved the problem, and we've given her a credit for a year's worth of electricity," Energy Australia customer executive Mark Collette said.
The wiring has since been removed and the building's electrical work has been replaced.
NSW Police are investigating.
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