© Hotshot Images by AKVNEWS/Paul R. Lowes/Staff Photographer
Allegheny Township, Pa. – An Oklahoma Borough business man is accused of stealing $207,000 worth of natural gas from Peoples -T.W. Phillips and faces three felony charges after his preliminary arraignment Tuesday afternoon in Allegheny Township.
According to the police criminal complaint, Jeffrey Zinchini, 57, of Orr Avenue allegedly tapped into a People’s natural gas line and was stealing natural gas from People’s and reselling in through his own well and pipeline.
On November 5th 2012, crew members from Peoples TW Phillips including a gas operations supervisor went to the area of 720 Community Park Drive to cut off a service line to the Vandergrift Golf Course maintenance building. That line had formerly been used to provide gas service to the Vandergrift Golf Course but had been shut off and the meter removed some time ago.
Accordingly the line should have no pressure in it and been empty of natural gas as the People’s valve to the service line was maintained by Peoples in the closed position. The expectation and knowledge of the workers was the closed People’s valve was the only potential source of gas to the service line. However, when they arrived the People’s valve to the service line had been opened and was left that way without the authorization or prior knowledge of Peoples.
The People’s worker then shut off the valve from their 3 inch line that supplied the service line. However, contrary to their expectation when workers cut the service line, pressurized natural gas was in a line and continued to feed through the line toward them. Eventually workers were able to discover the source of the gas. An unauthorized and unknown tap had been made ( a tee had been installed) into the People’s service line and was feeding gas into the same.
Approximately 40 feet away from the People’s service line an above ground manifold operated by Windfall Energy was observed. It’s configuration could account for the source of the gas as position of the valves was consistent with the middle riser being the source for the gas passing through the unauthorized tee into People’s service line.
The middle riser from the Windfall Energy manifold was confirmed as connecting to the People’s service line (at the point of the unauthorized tap in).
While People’s workers were on site, Jeff Zinchini , owner of Windfall Energy arrived. Zinchini was asked by the People’s workers whether he had any ideas if his facilities would have an effect on the pressure in the People’s system to which Zinchini replied ‘no”. Zinchini acted increasingly nervous, annoyed and paced and continued to ask Peoples workers how they knew there was a problem with the their pressure and why did they decide to dig where they did (in the area of the unknown and unauthorized tee).
The investigation and analysis into this incident took place over a period of 4 years between Allegheny Township Police, Peoples and the Westmoreland County Detective Bureau. Zinchini admitted to installing and maintaining the unauthorized tee into the People’s system.
Zinchini faces charges of Theft by Unlawful Taking, Deceptive Business Practices, Recklessly Endangering Another Person and Criminal Mischief – Tamper W/Property. A May 26 preliminary hearing is scheduled for 11:15 am at Magisterial District Judge Cheryl J. Peck-Yakopec district court in Allehgeny Township.