RIO CLARO MAGISTRATE Rae Roopchan yesterday fined a scrap iron dealer $5,000 for stealing pipes from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), saying it was taxpayers footing the bill when people steal from State-owned companies.
Businessman Tommy Francois was found guilty last week of stealing two lengths of ductile pipe which is used by WASA to supply water to people’s homes.
He was charged by estate constable Owen Hem Lee of the WASA estate police.
In February 2011, WASA reported the pipes were missing from its Navet Pipe Storage Facility.
On February 12, 2011, Hem Lee saw two pipes on the compound of a transport company in D’Abadie.
His investigations revealed that the contractor had paid $5,000 to Francois for the two lengths of pipe. The contractor hired a truck to retrieve the pipes from Francois’s Forres Park, Claxton Bay business place.
Seven witnesses gave evidence on behalf of WASA at the trial, which was conducted at the Rio Claro Magistrates’ Court.
Francois took the stand and in his defence denied that he had the pipes. He said he was being framed.
WASA was represented by attorney Michael Rooplal, who had obtained a fiat from the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute the matter. Francois was represented by attorney Aaron Dinanath.
Magistrate Roopchan denied the defence’s request that Francois be reprimanded and discharged. He said that crimes of this nature, where property belonging to WASA and Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) are being stolen, have become prevalent.
Roopchan said taxpayers were the ones who have had to foot the bill for these acts.
The magistrate fined the scrap iron dealer $5,000.
In default of paying the money, Francois will spend nine months in prison with hard labour.