Man stole more than $800K worth of water from city, police say

Man Used Magnets to Steal 63 Million Gallons of Water From City, Police Say

WEST LAWN, Pa. — A Pennsylvania man used magnets to tamper with water meters at properties he owned, stealing more than 63 million gallons of water over the course of more than a decade, investigators said.

City officials calculated that Bruce Becker, 62, owes $818,134, the Reading Eagle reported.

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Investigators with the Reading Area Water Authority said Becker stole 63 million gallons of water from January 2006 to January 2019 at commercial properties and apartment buildings he owned.

The investigation was spurred after the water authority received a call on Feb. 13 saying that someone might have tampered with a water meter at an apartment building. Water authority officials went to the building to inspect and found Becker trying to leave the basement with a magnet wrapped in a sweatshirt, the Reading Eagle reported.

Becker handed the magnet over to officials. Magnets are used to slow the counter on water meters.

Officials then started looking at water use at other properties Becker owns. Some occupied apartment buildings and commercial properties showed normal levels followed by consecutive days that read zero.

Becker was charged with a felony count of theft of services and a misdemeanor count of possessing an instrument of a crime, the Reading Eagle reported.