BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) --A fired National Grid employee was charged with effectively running his own shadow utility company, allegedly installing at least 33 illegal hookups across Brooklyn.
Authorities say the 47-year-old former employee, identified as Weldon "Al" Findlay, approached the landlords and told them that instead of going through National Grid to have a meter installed, he would do it hassle free for $1,300 to $2,500.
That way, landlords would avoid paying full price to install gas meters, along with the other city fees associated with new construction.
Findlay allegedly had his own band of rogue National Grid workers who were also working for him on the side, and a total of 37 people -- including seven National Grid employees -- were indicted and are now facing charges.
"We simply will not allow the lucrative real estate market in Brooklyn to feed criminal activity and potentially endanger lives," acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said. "These defendants showed contempt for rules and regulations specifically put into place to protect public safety, and they did this with callous disregard on a regular basis."
Investigators say the scam was run at at least 33 properties in Brooklyn, including in Orthodox Jewish sections of Williamsburg and Borough Park. Other neighborhoods included Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Midwood and also parts of Queens.
Findlay had been fired from National Grid for allegedly falsifying his time sheet.
Despite safety concerns, prosecutors found that gas lines were properly accessed by the suspects. After identifying the properties, they would have the buildings department inspect the lines to make sure they were safe.
Findlay, who worked for National Grid until 2010, and six other defendants are charged with enterprise corruption, which carries up to 25 years in prison. The other 30 defendants charged in connection with the case include landlords, property managers and contractors who allegedly arranged for, installed, or received illegal gas service.
National Grid issued the following statement:
"National Grid has zero tolerance for unethical and illegal behavior. The alleged misconduct, although limited to a handful of former employees, contradicts the dedication and professional values of our 15,000 hardworking men and women who are committed to serving our customers. National Grid has fully cooperated with and has supported the Kings County District Attorney's Office and the NYC Department of Investigation throughout their investigation, has conducted safety inspections, and has taken corrective measures where needed. National Grid is also conducting a thorough internal investigation and will be working hand-in-hand with its regulator, the NYS Public Service Commission, to take the steps necessary to enhance our existing controls and to implement any additional controls and recommendations required to prevent a similar situation from recurring in the future."