Dallas meter reader steals water, police say

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by TANYA EISERER

Bio | Email | Follow: @tanyaeiserer

WFAA

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 7:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 4 at 7:40 PM

DALLAS — A City of Dallas meter reader hasn’t paid for water at his home for more than four years, according to police documents obtained by News 8.

Those documents show that Mark Anthony Coleman’s address on York Street reflected “zero consumption” of water since October 2009. Coleman, 48, was arrested Friday on state jail felony charge of criminal mischief. He’s out on bail.

News 8 caught up with Coleman as he drove up to his South Dallas home. He confessed that he’s been stealing water for quite some time, and said he did it because the city doesn’t pay him enough.

“I couldn’t afford paying rent, paying the electric bill, paying the gas bill, paying child support,” he said. “I couldn’t afford it, so I tried to live the best way I can, and I see a situation where I didn’t have to pay one bit, so I decided to do that.”

City officials said Coleman has worked for Dallas Water Utilities since December 2007. He is paid $11.73 an hour. He’s currently on administrative leave from his city job.

Authorities said Coleman came under scrutiny in September 2013 when an inspection discovered that someone had installed a “jumper”  –  a piece of pipe that’s the same length as a meter – so that water usage wouldn’t register. A check revealed that the “jumper” had been stolen from another house.

“A security plug was installed to prevent further usage on multiple occasions, but Suspect Coleman continued to tamper with the security plugs and removed them,” according to court documents.

On January 14, an inspection at the home revealed that a stolen meter had been hooked up. A security plug was again installed and removed, authorities said.

Last Thursday, police detectives and a water department auditor met at Coleman’s home for another inspection. Officials found a stolen meter had been hooked up. Both meters had been stolen from Dallas addresses.

When officials audited that address, they found that a stolen meter had been recovered there in November 2012.

Frank Librio, a city spokesman, said that back in 2012, officials did not realize Coleman was linked to the address. He said it is not uncommon for city inspectors to find stolen meters. In the cases where inspectors find stolen meters, the unit is removed to prompt the resident to come in and speak with water department officials.

No one did, so officials did not realize Coleman was associated with the address.

“We didn’t put together that it was a water department employee for a while,” Librio said.

During Tuesday’s interview, Coleman repeatedly brought up how little the City of Dallas was paying him as a justification for why he did what he did.

“They pay me $11 an hour,” he said. “I don’t feel like I owe them nothing. Now I’m sure somebody else is going to say something different.”

However, he denied any knowledge of where the stolen meters came from. Coleman denied that all of the theft of water at that address could be attributed to him. He said he sometimes stayed elsewhere and let friends or homeless people rent the house.

But Coleman did acknowledge that what he did was wrong, and said that his knowledge of water department operations aided him in the theft.

“I knew the situation that I was getting into that eventually it was going to catch up, because when you do wrong in life long enough, what’s going to happen?” Coleman asked.

Answering his own question, he said: “It’s going to catch up with you, and that’s what it did.”

Coleman said he won’t be living at the York Street address much longer. He won’t be able to afford the rent, and he currently does not have any water.

E-mail teiserer@wfaa.com

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