HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A local pastor is in trouble with the law, after police say he found a way to avoid paying thousands of dollars for public utilities.
Police say the crime began in May and went undiscovered until September, at the Henrico County home, of Melvin Wade . Neighbors know him as "Pastor Wade" from the Seedtime and Harvest Ministries in south Richmond.
According to police, Wade turned off the gas to his home, and then obtained another meter which was "stolen" from Richmond. That meter was installed on his house.
"Which allowed him to get free natural gas from the city," said Henrico Police Lt. Doug Perry.
Richmond Public Utilities, which is the region's gas supplier, reported a loss of more than $2,600 worth of natural gas. Police made the arrest on Thursday. Neighbors, who know Pastor Wade, appeared to be surprised.
"I wouldn't believe it. I would need some serious proof to actually even think that something like this is possible. This is just not in his character," said Joanne Peterson.
Police say it is surprising to see a theft of this nature in Wade's neighborhood.
"This suspect is not your typical poor person that is barely making it, living on the street kinda thing," Perry said.
In fact, property records indicate Wade's home was bought three years ago for $430,000. The woman who answered the door to his house said Wade was unavailable for an interview. Friends appeared to be unaware of any financial problems.
"He's a very humble man, he's a family man. He's a hard worker. He's a Christian," said Peterson.
Wade now faces a charge of obtaining gas service without payment. A felony, because of the amount of money involved.
We reached out to Richmond's Public Utilities Department to ask how this went undetected for 5 months, but our calls were not immediately returned.