LCEC customers say they've been wrongly accused

LCEC customers say they've been wrongly accused

By Emily Dishnow. CREATED Nov 22, 2011

CAPE CORAL--On Friday, November 11th, Irena Mercado says without warning, someone from LCEC took her meter, leaving her without power. She called for answers.

“They told me you have to pay $670,” says Irena, “but the woman didn't tell me why.”

Irena says LCEC also insisted she pay in cash. She describes feeling hopeless as she watched her husband dumping out his piggy bank that night for extra money.

“I was sick,” says Irena, “I couldn't sleep that night, all of my tension was here on the top of my head and I was thinking, I’m going to have a stroke or something.”

Irena says LCEC later accused her of tampering with the meter. Furious, she began asking around; finding five other families on her block had experienced the same thing. Everyone's electricity cut off till they forked over the cash.

“Everybody got the same excuse,” says Irena, “you know, accusing us.”

These neighbors all tell me similar stories. So I got on the phone with LCEC demanding answers.

“You really believe six houses on the same street tampered with their meter illegally,” I ask spokeswoman Karen Ryan on the phone.

Karen wouldn't go on-camera, but answered yes, claiming the company has proof all six families were trying to steal electricity.

When I asked to see that proof, she said, it would take time to dig it up.

“Shouldn't you have provided that to these families before you required them to pay you all this cash,” I ask.

LCEC says no, if they think you're stealing, they can cut you off, no questions asked. Now Irena says she's going to have to cut back this holiday season.

“I don’t have money now to buy anything for my grandkids,” she says.