Petersburg utility workers busted for water meter thefts

Published: Jan. 6, 2016 at 10:43 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2016 at 11:36 PM EST
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PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - There are more problems unfolding with Petersburg's water department. Several city employees are now without a job, accused of stealing. An On your Side investigation has uncovered felony offenses against some of those workers, all connected to a series of water meters that disappeared.

At least four utility workers for the City of Petersburg have been charged with embezzlement or grand larceny and some have even been convicted.

Williams Adkins was home when city crews showed up to his front yard. "He was here. I asked what he was doing. He said he was putting in a new meter, Adkins explains. But little did the 86 year old neighbor know, some of those workers were stealing meters.

Algie Harris was a water service technician for the city but not anymore. Instead, he's been sentenced to two months for embezzlement. Calvin Hall, who was a supervisor, and Joseph Rhone also face the same charges.

Police began looking into the matter in the spring but are just opening up about the case. The issue surfaced after the entire city was undergoing water meter replacements. Old meters were being stored at a city facility when some of them started disappearing. Former city construction worker James Parham was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution and $900 in court costs after also being found guilty of embezzlement.

In the same investigation, Timothy Parham and Theodore Mayes were found guilty of grand larceny, although they were never employed with the city.

Greg Fry with Nott Recyling in Richmond is unfamiliar with the Petersburg investigation but does know sometimes folks try to come to scrap yards with stolen metal for cash. "We will scan their ID and take their picture... It goes into a database that's accessible to every police department in the state," Fry says. "If we purchase stolen material and the owner wants it back, we're out that money. We do not get reimbursed."

Whatever the reason behind the water meter theft spree in Petersburg, neighbors like Adkins want those involved to pay the price. "Cause they don't have any business doing it. A job is a job. You come out here to do one thing. Do what you do and carry your hind parts about your business," he says.

Wednesday, a city spokesperson said Petersburg does not tolerate this type of behavior and adds proper staff are now in place to prevent the thefts from re-occurring. None of those arrested or convicted are still employed with the city.

Calvin Hall and Joseph Rhone still have court cases pending in connection with their charges.

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