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Former PGW Executives Charged with Theft
While Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) is in the midst of defending a 30% rate hike request, the Philadelphia District Attorney has filed criminal charges against four former PGW executives for theft and misuse of company funds. The action was sparked by a Philadelphia County Grand Jury investigation.
The grand jury alleges the former executives used their company credit cards on personal expenditures such as art, hotel stays and home improvement projects. Deborah Perry Estrin, James Hawes III, Gregory Martin and Ramon Sharbutt were all charged with multiple counts of theft, with some receiving additional charges of conspiracy, forgery and the receiving of stolen property. The charges range from misdemeanors which could just mean probation, to third-degree felonies which can carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Hawes is PGW's former CEO. Martin was COO. Sharbutt was CFO, and Estrin was PGW's human resources director.
Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's office, said Martin has already turned himself in and is awaiting arraignment.
The charges come as the latest addition to the municipal utility's troubled past. In July, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission took over rate-setting and customer complaint handling for the company after PGW experienced computer system problems, debt, and customer discontent. Last year's brand new $70 million computer system over-billed some customers, and did not bill others at all (see NGI, July 10). PGW serves 518,00 gas customers in the Philadelphia area.
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