Surveillance photos catch Hillsborough power scam crook - WFLA News Channel 8

Surveillance photos catch Hillsborough power scam crook

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF’S DETECTIVES BELIEVE THIS WOMAN IS INVOLVED IN THE TECO POWER BILL SCAM.  THEY NEED YOUR HELP IDENTIFYING HER. HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF’S DETECTIVES BELIEVE THIS WOMAN IS INVOLVED IN THE TECO POWER BILL SCAM. THEY NEED YOUR HELP IDENTIFYING HER.
TED KELLY OWNER OF MOTT & HESTER DELI SCAMMED OUT OF $900 TED KELLY OWNER OF MOTT & HESTER DELI SCAMMED OUT OF $900
SMALL BUSINESSES LIKE MOTT & HESTER BEING TARGETED BY POWER BILL FRAUDSTERS SMALL BUSINESSES LIKE MOTT & HESTER BEING TARGETED BY POWER BILL FRAUDSTERS
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Surveillance photos obtained by 8 On Your Side are giving detectives with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office an idea who is involved in a power bill scam.

The con involves telephone calls from people claiming to be with Tampa Electric Company's billing department.

They threaten to cut off your power unless they receive immediate payment.

Ted Kelly, the owner of south Tampa's popular Mott & Hester Deli says they got him.

"My worker called and said they're coming, TECO called and they're coming to disconnect our power if the bill isn't paid immediately," Kelly recalls.

Kelly returned the phone call and the person who picked up answered, "Tampa Electric Company billing department."

The man on the other end of the phone directed Kelly to put money on a Green Dot Money Pak card, then provide the numbers on the back of the card.

Investigators believe while customers like Kelly read the numbers off, the crooks on the other end of the line are inputting that information onto other Money Cards then later redeem them.

"Not only did they know my account number, but they knew the balance that I owed," Kelly said.

Kelly offered to pay the bill immediately with a credit card but the caller indicated that the credit card takes a couple of days to process.

"This thing was due for disconnection in the next 30 minutes," Kelly remembered.

Kelly wants to know how they got his account number and knew how much his bill was.

Tampa Electric Company spokesperson Cherie Jacobs insists there is no security breach at TECO and that employees are not gaining unauthorized access to customer information.

Kelly wants to know why the numbers on the back of those Green Dot Money Pak cards are not traceable. Detectives say they are.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's investigators believe a blondish woman captured in surveillance photographs may have some answers to this scheme.

The photographs taken at Publix Supermarkets in Hudson and Spring Hill on April 7th and 8th show a woman detectives believe redeemed cards with illegal money from the TECO power scam.

They want the public's help identifying her.

If you know the woman's identity the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office asks you to contact them at 813 247-8779.

According to the sheriff's office, these thieves are now targeting small mom and pop businesses like Mott & Hester, because electric usage at places like that are higher than in homes. That allows the crooks to steal more money.

Last week they took Melinda Cothorn and her Plant City restaurant, Chancy's Catfish Shack to the cleaners for $2,000.

"It took my heart, I'm going to tell you the truth, it took might heart," Cothorn said as her tears rolled down her cheeks.

Once Ted Kelly figured out he'd been taken for over $900 he called the fraudsters back.

"The same joker answered the phone the same way, Tampa Electric! And I called him out on it and he got smart with me. He told me he bought a lot of cheese with the money he stole from me and then hung up on me," Kelly said.

Related Content: Teco Scam targeting small businesses

Related Content: Scam Alert: Callers say they work at TECO

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