A qualified plumber who offered a “cheaper” energy service to householders by tampering with their ESB and Bord Gáis meters will be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Garda David Ennis said one woman told gardaí that James McLoughlin had interfered with her meter to allow a free flow of gas to her house for €100. She said McLoughlin had advised her to top the meter up by €10 a week and Bord Gáis “won’t come near you”.

McLoughlin, aged 42, of Summer St South, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to criminal damage of two Bord Gáis meters and an ESB meter at Summer St South between July 2, 2013, and February 25, 2014.

The grandfather also pleaded guilty to possessing a stolen Bord Gáis meter at his address on February 25, 2014, and to interfering with a Bord Gáis meter and ESB meter between June 26, 2013, and February 25, 2014.

He further pleaded guilty to interfering with a Bord Gáis meter at Benbulbin Rd, Drimnagh between March 1, and May 31, 2013.

Engineers from Bord Gáis (now Ervia) and ESB told gardaí that McLoughlin’s activities had been extremely dangerous, with risk of electrocution, gas leaks, and explosion.

Det Garda Ennis said McLoughlin, who was not qualified to work with meters, had offered householders a “cheaper” energy service than the suppliers.

The detective told Garrett McCormack, prosecuting, he and colleagues set up surveillance on McLoughlin in 2013. Gardaí saw him visiting a number of houses and got a search warrant for his address. A Bord Gáis engineer attended the search and discovered two stolen gas meters on the property.

Det Garda Ennis said McLoughlin “exercised his right to silence” on his arrest following this search.

The detective agreed with Damien Colgan, defending, that gardaí had not been prohibited from entering his client’s house a second time though they had no search warrant.

Mr Colgan told Judge Sarah Berkeley that McLoughlin had made efforts to deal with his “issues”. He said his client also suffered from depression.

Judge Berkeley acknowledged that McLoughlin has serious mental health and addiction problems.

She adjourned the case for a probation and community service report.


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