Police: Lawrence, Mass. laundromat stole thousands in natural gas

2011-5-23

While many of us scrape to pay our bills, police in Lawrence, Massachusetts say Stephen Bankert, who owns a half-dozen laundromats in Massachusetts, stole thousands of dollars worth of natural gas.

Big signs outside Laundry World in Lawrence, Massachusetts read "Free Dry" with any wash, but police say, that "free dry" came at a price for the gas company.

They say the owner of the Laundry World chain, Steven Bankert, 54, rigged the natural gas meters at his stores so he could use the gas for free to power his dryers. The gas company has now removed the meters at least three locations.

"We know… according to the technicians with the company… that the meter was tampered with, not to register," said Lawrence police chief John Romero.
               
And that cost the gas company big bucks.

"If the utility company is right, we're talking about a substantial amount of money," said Romero.
               
At the Lawrence store alone, the company estimates, since last July, Bankert stole more than $50,000 worth of gas service.
               
Customers are shocked.
               
We knocked on the door of Bankert's home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, but no one answered. The Lawrence police chief says he didn't offer any explanation when he was arrested. But he says, scams involving gas meters will be prosecuted.

"These companies are very good at knowing their equipment and knowing what people do," said Romero. "And they provided us the information and that gave us probable cause to get an arrest warrant."

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