0

‘We Weren’T Stealing Power Supply’

From left: Attorney Carlson Shurland, Kenneth Symonette, Elvis Burrows and Paxton Cooper.               Photo: Vandyke Hepburn

From left: Attorney Carlson Shurland, Kenneth Symonette, Elvis Burrows and Paxton Cooper. Photo: Vandyke Hepburn

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

THE Cooper family – the operators of several major fast food franchise restaurants in Freeport - has “categorically and emphatically” denied any wrongdoing concerning the alleged theft of electricity by the Grand Bahama Power Company.

The family said yesterday that close to 500 jobs are at stake due to the disconnection of power supply at their businesses. A total of seven businesses – three Burger Kings, three KFCs, and one Pollo Tropical location – have been implicated in the theft investigation. The Cooper family claimed the controversy is due to widely used energy saving devices installed at the businesses in question, not electricity theft.

Power supply was turned off since last Wednesday after the GBPC filed a complaint with police. All of the businesses are now operating with “limited power” on emergency generators.

In addition to the possibility of hundreds being unemployed, this could damage the owners’ business reputation which could result in the loss of licences from the various international franchise brands.

The family held a press conference yesterday at Precious Acres – the headquarters for their respective businesses. Paxton Cooper, Kenneth Symonette, and Elvis Burrows spoke on behalf of the Cooper family. Their attorney, Carlson Shurland, was also present.

“The Cooper family is deeply saddened by the latest spate of events concerning our family and the issues involving the alleged theft of electricity from GBPC,” said Mr Burrows.

“Nothing can be further from the truth. On behalf of the Cooper family, we wish to emphatically and categorically deny any wrongdoing in this matter. We contracted a licensee of the GBPA, with a certificate of good standing, for the installation of an energy saving device that, to the best of our knowledge, was widely used by other businesses on the island.

“Our family has always operated our businesses with the highest degree of honesty and integrity. These are the core values that our businesses are built on. We are very distressed by the latest development in these matters as most of our fast food restaurants have been disconnected, and as of now we are still without power.”

In a statement issued on Friday, GBPC said it filed a police complaint after it uncovered a series of suspected electricity diversions during metre audits at a number of businesses in the Freeport area.

“As per our established protocols,” the GBPC statement read, “we have taken immediate steps to isolate those customers from our electrical grid and formally lodged a complaint of suspected theft to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. The RBPF has officially launched an investigation and to our knowledge persons are assisting the police in this matter.

“At this time it is unclear the number of GBPC customers involved, but there is evidence that other businesses and residential locations are also utilising this practice and we are working with the RBPF to further assess this matter.

“At this time, our primary concern is the serious safety risk these diversions pose to the public and GBPC employees and the need to regularise these businesses.”

Mr Burrows, Mr Cooper and Mr Symonette said that they were arrested on Friday and questioned by CDU officers in reference to the alleged electricity theft. They reported to police at 11am on Friday and were later released late that evening between 7pm to midnight.

“Because of this, we have retained the services of an attorney to represent us of what appears to be a developing criminal matter,” Mr Burrows said.

“We have given both the GB Power and CDU free access to our businesses and have been cooperating fully with them in these matters.

“Again, we have nothing to hide for we have done nothing wrong. We are completely innocent in these matters, and wish and want to bring this matter to conclusion and have our power and our good name restored,” he said.

When asked by The Tribune whether the device they had installed at their respective businesses was legal, Mr Shurland said that the family entered into a legitimate contract with a reputable licencee of the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

He said that he has attempted to reach the licencee, but has been unable to find him. Mr Shurland also believes his clients are being unfairly targeted and said that many other businesses and residents on the island are using the same energy saving device, and that the police and the power company know who they are and are not pursuing them.

Defence

Asked if they had got approval from GBPC to use the device, Mr Shurland said: “You don’t need approval to use an energy saving device, that is not standard operating procedures. Do you get approval to change the wattage in your light bulbs?”

Meanwhile, Mr Burrows said that the cost of power is high in Grand Bahama, and that their power bills represent a very substantial cost on their books. After having installed the device several years ago, he said that they had noticed some savings but nothing significant.

He declined, however, to say how much they had spent or invested to have the devices installed at their businesses.

The device was one of many initiatives that they had embarked on, in addition to LED lighting and investing in more energy efficient equipment.

“To the best of our knowledge the device was supposed to regulate the equipment in the restaurants and produce cost saving initiative when it is in operation —I am not an electrician,” Mr Burrows said.

“We have been interrupted since Wednesday evening and we are still interrupted, and I say with all sincerity, unless our power is restored in a reasonable time we have no choice but to shut our stores down because we are on limited power on emergency generators and I don’t know what will happen to our close to 500 employees that we employ collectively among ourselves. But if our power is not restored soon, we just can’t push it anymore.”

He added: “This whole issue of theft and stealing is just ludicrous.”

Mr Cooper, who operates Pollo Tropical and Burger King on East Sunrise Highway and Ranfurly Circus, said he could lose his franchise licence over the matter.

“We had persons from Pollo Tropical International call us to find out what is happening and we have explained to them all what is going on because the contract talks about if found guilty of any criminal offence you can lose your franchise,” he said.

For his part, Mr Symonette said the business owners are being “dragged” through the mud over unproven allegations.

“Among our businesses we have about 500 employees, and people are just dragging our names through the mud over something we have not been found guilty of, and they do not know the complete truth about. When we hire someone in our businesses – we are not a big company like BORCO or the Container Port, but we have been consistent in this community for years.

“And people are ungrateful to say the things they are saying. When we pay someone a salary they are able to buy food and send their children to school with lunch; we are helping this community more than we are hurting. And we have been consistent because some of our businesses have been in this community for some over 50 years, and we don’t deserve to the way we have been treated by the Power Company, or some of our people on this island,” he said.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 3 months ago

There should be absolutely no political interference or unfair judicial considerations whatsoever in this matter. The chips must be allowed to fall where the evidence takes them.

There are many other businesses and homes in Grand Bahama doing exactly what's been alleged here and this is one of the key reasons why GBPC's billing rates are so high for all other power consumers. The same is true in Nassau with BPL.

The power companies must do more to take thieving leeches off of their power grids so that they are better able to reduce the escalating billing rates they charge the rest of us.

0

realfreethinker 1 year, 3 months ago

Here you go talking shit again. When since energy saving equates to theft?

0

joeblow 1 year, 3 months ago

What kind of world would it be if the first one to make an accusation is automatically right? Its not theft because one side says so. I think theft has to be proven in this instance.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 3 months ago

We're talking here about the installation of devices that slowdown the metering (charging) process as opposed to the actual amount of power consumed. It's not at all about efficiency of consumption, but rather about not paying the full amount for the power actually consumed. Users of these illegal devices could easily end up paying 50% or less of what they should actually pay.

0

Naughtydread 1 year, 3 months ago

"Power Saving Devices" ............. So stealing electricity is the same as utilizing a power savings device lol!? I mean you are saving money on power by not paying for it.

0

thephoenix562 1 year, 3 months ago

A friend of mine was arrested,charged and fined more than $2800 for stealing electricity.Energy saving device my ass.Any half competent person with knowledge can do it.Then you can practice playing dumb when caught.

0

TalRussell 1 year, 3 months ago

Ma comrades, what gives sudden harshness against "Free Enterprise" trying use alternative legally available and bought power devices keep 500 "Free Porters" employed when Minnis and KP overnight became Hoteliers under pretense rescue just 400 jobs, counting upwards $100 million out PeoplesPublicPurse when they used initial $35 million and bought a rundown equally left $35 million hurricane damaged "rolls toilet paperless" "Free Port" hotel ......... Yes, yes and yes - a week back comrade bloggers laughed and mocked by my drawing attention to the widely used energy saving devices installed at the "Free Port" Residential and Businesses where whilst no load sharing goes on daily and hourly in "Free Port" as it does across other Out Island of Nassau Town's - the Residential and Commercial average rate per kilowatt hour - power is too damn dangerously costly, yes no - "Free Port" business owners are struggling keep they doors opened - yet you want jail em, yes, no?

0

pingmydling 1 year, 3 months ago

The Coopers doth protest too much, methinks. (SHAKESPEARE),

1

sheeprunner12 1 year, 3 months ago

That is how the rich continue to stay rich ...... and the poor eat crumbs from the rich man's table ...... 1% of this country own at least 80% of the wealth (fixed, property, and liquid assets) of this country now

0

Clamshell 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, they quite innocently stumbled upon a perfectly legal device that magically reduced their electricity bill. Yes, of course. Why, of course, that’s perfectly believeable. Yes, of course it is.

0

pingmydling 1 year, 3 months ago

How true. Let them eat cake--- Marie Antoinette. ( the good news is she lost her head over that comment) Is this the same Coopers related to D. B.Cooper? Seems like criminality runs in the DNA.

0

proudloudandfnm 1 year, 3 months ago

A lot of people here in Freeport are using a new system to lower their bill, uses some kind of capacitor. My neighbor has it and he says it reduces his bill by 40%. Not sure about the legality of it but there is a system selling here to reduce electric bills... So the Coooper's may be telling the truth....

0

TalRussell 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, yes and yes, since when did comrade "Free Porters" decide go all negative against major local employer of 400 "Free Porters" - whilst going all positive in corner the USA power company?
If we're talking about the use of "Capacitors" it is not to steal anything from power providers but provide new " legal technology" for reduced electricity bills by reduction power losses, improved voltage and increased system capacity, yes, no? If Business Operators electricity costs are not reduced - they will be forced close their doors - exactly what PM Minnis, says he tried to avoid over at the Lucayan Hotel, yes, no..... $35 million buy a hotel with no rolls toilet papers and the Seller got to keep the $35 million paid out for hurricane repairs by the Insurance Company but still remain unrepared, yes,no?

0

pingmydling 1 year, 3 months ago

If you believe that I have a couple of bridges you may be interested in.

0

DWW 1 year, 3 months ago

Getting into very technical waters here. Tribune should do some investigative journalism research. A slow start capacitor on your air conditioning pump will lower the spike draw on your supply and therefore save you cost on electricity. Is this considered to be illegal by GBPC or BPL? Is there anybody out there?

2

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 3 months ago

Once again: We're talking here about the installation of devices that slowdown the metering (charging) process as opposed to the actual amount of power consumed. It's not at all about efficiency of consumption, but rather about not paying the full amount for the power actually consumed. Users of these illegal devices could easily end up paying 50% or less of what they should actually pay. For large business enterprises, the unpaid for or "stolen" electricity could add up to millions of dollars over the years the illegal scam was employed.

0

The_Oracle 1 year, 3 months ago

The "device" installed to save energy is a distraction. Smoke and mirrors. If at the time of installation one hot leg or two legs of the meter is being bypassed, the savings are attributed to "the Device", not the bypass of the meter, which is theft. The one really has nothing to do with the other, except they are done at the same time. The reality is bypassing the meter can save 30, 50 70% of a given power bill through theft, by not recording a portion of the power used. It is a criminal act. The capacitor bank (and other power factor correction devices) is a legitimate device used in industrial/commercial applications to correct phase angle and makes motor loads run cooler, more efficiently. It cannot save 30, 50, 70% on a power bill. 0.1 % of an industrial power bill can be saved at most. The Energy saving device cannot reduce a residential power bill, period. Utilities themselves can save fuel and improve efficiency through the use of Power Factor Correction capacitor banks. Generally it is not done by utilities here as we pay for their inefficiencies through our bills. Probably hidden in the fuel surcharge.

0

hrysippus 1 year, 3 months ago

Will these peeps be accused of slowing up their meter, …….. . .. . Unknowingly becoming a utility cheater. . . . . . The device now installed but the man he flew away, . . . ..
Leaving this reverend will all hell to pay. . . . . … You know he gonna say he didn't know it was wrong. . . . .. That licensed electrician sold him on a song. . . . . …. They used to say "Free tings Nassau people kill", . '' ''' businessmen in Freeport want a lower electric bill. . . . .. So when the conman comes along, says he can do just that, . . ' '' '' They feeding up their frog so snake oil salesman can get fat, . . .. . And when proverbial shot hits the proverbial fan, . . . . .. Guess who left there standing to carry the proverbial can. , , , Just because you're ignorant, wont make no difference at all. . . . . With our system of justice you still gonna take the fall. . . . .

ignorance of the law is no excuse.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 3 months ago

GBPC needs to calculate the maximum value of the electricity that they claim was stolen by the business enterprises owned and operated by the Cooper family members. If found guilty, they should be fined and then given a reasonable period of time over which to pay back the sum stolen with interest charges added. Ideally the payback period should not exceed three (3) years. Sadly we live in a country today where only the poor go to jail for stealing, whether they be a bank teller or a grocery store clerk simply trying to feed themselves or their children. Therefore no one should expect for any of these financially successful members of the Cooper family to serve any prison time. Lady Justice in our country has not worn her blindfold for decades now.

0

TalRussell 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, yes and yes asks what is current shape of comrade Imperial red regime's bill paying for all the government's "Free Port" facilities and operations (the Lucayan Hotel and red MP's, included) with the Grand Bahamaland Power Company (GBPC) bill paying status...... considering was just couple months back that the GBPC dispatched their disconnect team to cutoff the lights and air conditioning at a government school for non-payment, yes, no....... likes are then any energy reduction devices to be discovered at the Lucayan Hotel, yes, no?

0

BMW 1 year, 3 months ago

Why did their lawyer contact the power company in order to settle this amicably??????? Does he not understand the law, it is now in the hands of the police. You can do what you can to reduce your power consumption as long as it is after the meter, Plain and simple. I hope this does not take on the " white foreign company taking advantage of black Bahamian". Honestly I would have told you to go to hell if I were the C.F.O. and was contacted and told to restore power to these places now suspected of stealing power.

0

sheeprunner12 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes ........ Is this "power saving device" installed on the customer's side of the meter or the supplier's side?????

0

TalRussell 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, yes and yes, interesting position not move cautiously before involving cutting off lights at their establishments, then involve policeman's when it involves major local enterprises just happening employ some 500 real comrade "Free porters" - if it is inconsequential - then why did Minnis reds buy the "rolls toilet paperless" Lucayan Hotel for $35 million and counting upwards towards $100 million, under false pretense retain 400 local paycheques, yes, no.... but why act surprised if all done by same people who cut off lights and air conditioning at "Free port" government school for non-payment they light bills, yes, no?

0

Sign in to comment