ROWLEY — A Haverhill contractor charged with tapping into the town’s electricity grid in 2019 while working on two Haverhill Street homes must pay $1,430 to the Municipal Light Department within six months. Keith Braunack, 42, of Woodman Avenue saw two fraudulent use of electricity charges generally continued for six months and a slew of related charges dropped prior to his arraignment minutes earlier last Wednesday in Newburyport District Court. Failure to pay could result in the charges being brought back before a judge by a county prosecutor.

The agreement came moments after prosecutors dropped all charges against a Methuen contractor originally charged with the offenses.

Unlike many municipalities, Rowley residents receive electricity directly from the town – a network overseen by the Municipal Light Department.

The Methuen man hired Braunack as a subcontractor to work on the homes but was unaware that Braunack tapped into the town’s electricity network to illuminate the homes, according to court records.

In mid-January 2020, Light Department Superintendent Mark Anderson spoke to Rowley police Sgt. Matthew Ziev after spotting lights inside 623 Haverhill St., which had been unoccupied for years.

Anderson then spotted an orange electrical cable running from the house to a town service line along the street. A closer look showed there was no electrical meter attached to the home. Ziev was able to track down building permits for the address and learned that the Methuen contractor had signed them. He also learned the same contractor was working on 929 Haverhill St. and went there to see if the same thing happened.

After arriving, Ziev noticed what looked liked jumper-like devices coming from the house’s meter box.

“Upon opening the meter, I observed there to be two jumper bars in the meter sockets,” Ziev wrote in his report. “I subsequently contacted Anderson and advised him of the same. Anderson responded to the scene and confirmed my observations, citing that the suspect in this case jumped electricity out of the meter socket, ultimately stealing electricity from the town of Rowley.”

Soon after, Rowley police issued an arrest warrant for the Methuen contractor.

After the warrant was issued Jan. 23, 2020, the Methuen man came to the police station and was placed under arrest. Accompanying him was Braunack.

The Methuen man told police he knew nothing of the illegal power taps and had hired Braunack to work on the homes as a subcontractor.

“Braunack confirmed that he was hired by (the Methuen man) to complete the electrical work. He also made admissions that he hooked into the RMLP illegally,” Ziev wrote in his report, adding that the contractor was ultimately responsible for what happened at the job sites.

The Methuen contractor was later arraigned in Newburyport District Court on two fraudulent use of electricity charges, larceny under $1,200 and wanton destruction of property under $1,200 charges.

Braunack never provided a written statement admitting he tapped into the town’s grid – a decision that ultimately led to the Methuen man having to face those charges for almost two years before they were dropped Wednesday.

Dave Rogers is a reporter with the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Dave Rogers is a reporter with the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008. 

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