SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - A 33-year-old San Augustine man is jail again for the second time in two weeks. This time, David Wayne Cooper Jr. has been charged with state-jail felony criminal mischief for tampering with a Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative meter to steal electric service.
"You might get it for free for a while, but we will find you, and the price you pay will be far more than any electric service you receive," Gary Cunningham, the chief deputy of the San Augustine County Sheriff's Office, said.
Cooper is still being held in the San Augustine Jail on a state-jail criminal mischief charge after being arrested Monday. His bond has been set at $2,500.
Cunningham said that the Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative has been losing so much money as a result of people tampering with meters that they have adopted a "zero tolerance" policy. If Deep East Texas Electric Coop officials determine that someone has tampered with a meter, they will pursue criminal charges, Cunningham said.
The SACSO chief deputy said because of the wording of the state law that deals with this particular crime, law enforcement officials don't have to prove who did the actual tampering.
"This is one of the few laws that presumes that the person receiving the economic benefit is responsible for the crime," Cunningham said. "The law presumes that the person who receives the service knowingly tampered with or diverted that service in some way."
According to Section 28.03 of the Texas Penal Code, a criminal mischief offense is considered a state-jail felony if the "pecuniary loss" is less than $20,000 and the actor causes wholly or partly impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public gas or power supply, or other public service, or causes to be diverted wholly, partly, or in any manner, including installation or removal of any device for any such purpose, any public communications or public gas or power supply."
The statute also states that tampering has occurred if the communication or supply has been "diverted from passing through a metering device, prevented from being correctly registered by a metering device, or activated by any device installed to obtain public communications (phone service), public water, gas, or power supply without a metering device."
Cooper was arrested for assault and endangering a child on Jan. 14 after he allegedly forced his estranged wife's car off the road. Two children were in the car with her at the time.
In a previous story, Cunningham explained that Cooper allegedly saw his wife driving down FM 1277 with the two children in the car with her, turned around, and started following her
Cunningham said Cooper was allegedly driving at speeds of up to 75 mph, and his wife slowed to let him pass. However, he reportedly passed her and then backed into her vehicle.
According to the report, the altercation started because Cooper's wife cut off his cell phone service.