Crime & Courts

Criminal case closed after McHenry business pays city back for unmetered water

McHenry business accused of stealing unmetered water pays city back

A building at 1615 Schroeder Lane serves as a second location for American Vactor Services on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 in McHenry.
A building at 1615 Schroeder Lane serves as a second location for American Vactor Services on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 in McHenry.

Police have closed a criminal investigation into a McHenry business accused of stealing thousands of dollars in unmetered water, which employees allegedly used to fill 2,000-gallon tank trucks several times a week.

McHenry officials decided not to pursue criminal theft charges against the owner of American Vactor Services after he agreed to pay $3,860 for previously unbilled water and sewer services, court records show. The business reimbursed the city Dec. 27, McHenry Director of Community Development Ross Polerecky said.

American Vactor Services operates out of Crystal Lake and McHenry under owner Robert Lucchetti, who has declined to comment on the accusations.

The business performs high-pressure water jobs such as sewer jetting and cleaning, according to its website. Assignments often require a large water supply, which employees have access to through two tank trucks the company owns.

McHenry police began their investigation in December, after learning Lucchetti might have installed a bypass pipe in his water main line to avoid being billed by the city, police reports show.

Polerecky told police he met with Lucchetti in April 2017 about an occupancy permit the business owner was seeking at 1615 S. Schroeder Lane. During the meeting, Lucchetti inquired about the cost of installing a 2-inch water service line on the property to replace the existing 1-inch line, a search warrant affidavit filed in McHenry County court shows.

When he learned the job would cost about $55,000, Lucchetti decided against installing the new line, according to the affidavit.

Suspicions arose Nov. 30, however, when Polerecky received a phone call from an American Vactor Services employee, who claimed the business had installed a bypass pipe to avoid the water meter, effectively obtaining water without it being metered and billed by the city.

The employee could not be reached for comment. He went to the police with information about the unbilled water supply after Lucchetti fired him over a dispute with another employee, police reports show.

Lucchetti allegedly told the employee in November that he’d solved the high cost of filling up both the 2,000-gallon trucks. He then showed the employee the bypass pipe, the employee told police in a separate affidavit.

“This conversation led me to believe that Robert himself had installed the bypass; he understood it was there to not pay for water, and he was using it for that exclusive purpose,” the employee wrote.

The bypass pipe went across the building to an area by the garage doors on the back side of the building and fed into a rolled firetruck style hose that was used exclusively to fill the trucks, according to police reports.

Two separate inspections of the property on April 7, 2017, and May 3, 2017 – the day before the business was granted occupancy permits – did not indicate that a bypass line had been installed, records show.

After speaking with the employee, Polerecky pulled the property’s water usage and billing records, which showed that between Jan. 16, 2017, and March 15, 2017, the business used 34,349 gallons of water. The business used even more water – 63,318 gallons – from March 15, 2017, to May 15, 2017, Polerecky told police.

The usage then “dramatically reduced” to 4,580 gallons the next two months, however, and since has fluctuated between 3,108 and 6,027 gallons of water, according to the affidavit.

“... the city of McHenry estimates American Vactor Services would have been billed an additional $1,756.84 in water charges and $2,104.00 in sewer charges, for a total of $3,860.84 since May 4, 2017,” McHenry Police Sgt. Nicholas Clesen wrote.

On Dec. 6, police had the inspectors check the water main pipe again.

“They all confirmed that this hookup was illegal and designed to not meter the water flowing through it, thus not being billed for it or the sewer service,” police wrote.

Officers initially were investigating whether Lucchetti had committed felony theft and theft of utility services. If the city had agreed to press charges, Lucchetti could have faced between two and five years in prison for the felony offense. Theft of utility services is a misdemeanor that typically results in less than one year in jail.

City officials told police Jan. 3, however, that they didn’t want to charge Lucchetti, because he had paid back the allegedly stolen water. The bypass line has since been removed, and the building is up to Illinois plumbing code requirements, Polerecky said.

“Things like that happen, and the business owner was very cooperative with us and took care of things in a timely manner,” Polerecky said.

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