Court

ELKTON — A North East-area man accused of pirating $10,000 to $100,000 in electricity from Delmarva Power during a five-year period received probation before judgment Wednesday, after pleading guilty to a lesser amended charge as part of a plea deal.

The defendant, Bryan Stallings, 56, pleaded guilty to tampering with materials and, or, equipment owned by a power company to make a connection.

That charge initially had been filed as theft scheme of $10,000 to $100,000, before it was amended as part of the plea agreement reached by Assistant State’s Attorney Robert E. Sentman and Stallings’ defense lawyer, C. Thomas Brown.

Sentman reported that, had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have been able to prove that Stallings had tampered with the electric box attached to his residence in 100 block of Marysville Road.

Under state law, all prosecutors have to prove in order to support that charge is that the defendant was living at the residence in question during the specified time listed in charging documents — which Stallings was — and that the defendant, as a result, likely would have been benefitted from the tampering, he outlined.

However, because the electric box at Stallings’ house had no meter, the state would not have been able to present evidence showing exactly when the tampering had occurred and, moreover, how much electricity in kilowatt hours had been siphoned, if any, from a nearby main power line during that time frame, Sentman explained. Without the meter, a monetary loss value could not be calculated.

Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Brenda A. Sexton placed Stallings on one year of unsupervised probation, after accepting his guilty plea and then granting him probation before judgment. Stallings accepted the plea deal on the day that his jury trial was set to start.

A 2008 conspiracy conviction is the only blemish on Stallings’ criminal record, which was a consideration at sentencing, according to prosecutors.

The investigation started on Sept. 6, 2018, after Delmarva Power officials received an anonymous tip that a resident in the 100 block of Marysville Road had run electricity from a power line to his house without the company’s permission, prosecutors said.

Later that day, prosecutors added, Delmarva Power investigators went to Stallings’ house — the address given by the anonymous tipster — and saw evidence of an unauthorized hookup to the power line.

Sentman reported that Delmarva Power had cut off service to that house in 2013 and, as part of the disconnection, workers removed the meter and then placed a solid covering over the electric box to prevent people from accessing it. Sentman noted that Stallings was living at that residence in 2013, when service was cutoff, but did not give the reason.

“The blank (solid covering) was still there, but someone had drilled holes through it and then installed jumper wires to complete the (electrical) circuit,” Sentman said.

He added that the top power line from the road still went to that box and that it was “still hot,” meaning it carried power.

At that point, Delmarva Power investigators turned off the power from the road and installed a meter in the electric box for that house, according to Sentman.

Court records show that Stallings was not arrested but instead charged through a criminal information issued by the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office in February after some additional investigation.

In the past year, the SAO has handled approximately six similar criminal cases in which Delmarva Power was listed as the victim, according to Sentman, who has been a prosecutor with that office for about four years.

“I don’t recall us handling any my first three years. We have been seeing more and more of them. I think Delmarva is putting more effort into investigating this crime,” Sentman said, before referring to the tampering and commenting, “It’s a dangerous thing to do. You’re dealing with a live circuit on one end coming into the house.”

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