Duval County

Investigation: JEA duped into cutting power at woman’s home by jilted lover

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is pressing JEA and the State Attorney’s Office for answers after a jilted lover with a no-contact order duped the utility company into shutting off the power of his ex-girlfriend.

“Do you feel like you are in hiding?” Action News Jax’s Ben Becker asked Katie Elizabeth, who says she’s a domestic violence survivor. “I do feel like I’m in hiding,” said Elizabeth, who says she feels victimized a second time by JEA.

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“Why are you speaking out now?” asked Becker. " I had to move away because this issue bothered me so much,” said Elizabeth. “They (JEA) put me in a position where I don’t feel safe in the home anymore.”

The single mother of two and her elderly father were living at a home in Jacksonville, but one evening around midnight, the lights turned out. “You see horror movies when the power goes out, and that’s when the bad guy comes,” remembered Elizabeth.

Instead, it was JEA who cut off her power, even though her account was in good standing.

Elizabeth called the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and an officer responded after the power was turned back on. The officer told Elizabeth in body camera video obtained by Action News Jax, “I actually did talk to JEA and they said they did not have any truck that came out here,” to which Elizabeth responded “What?!”

However, Becker obtained internal JEA documents that reveal a JEA foreman was indeed contacted by an electrician he knew, who said there was a “safety concern” at Elizabeth’s house and “needed power cut to that property.”

It turns out that electrician, who did not work for JEA, was James Moreno, Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend. He was arrested for battery against Elizabeth two months earlier, and one condition of bail was an order of “no contact with victim.”

JEA’s investigation showed JEA never wrote a ticket and concluded, “There was no valid safety concern, nor did the resident have a past due or other issue with her JEA account — so the cut-off was improper.”

“We are not always right in actions that we take,” admitted JEA CEO Jay Stowe who apologized about the incident during a board meeting a few months following JEA’s investigation. “We did not properly document or follow existing JEA policies and procedure for this disconnection,” said Stowe.

But what were the policies and procedures of JEA?

During the investigation, the line worker who cut Elizabeth’s power said, “I do this all the time if I need a cut. The results would have been the same. If this is something that needs to change it needs, to change across the whole spectrum of the business — we all do it this way.”

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Becker emailed JEA to find out what changes took place and was sent a revised policy that now reads:

ELECTRIC SYSTEM OPERATIONS PROCEDURE: ES 40307 ECR 1400 TITLE: ELECTRIC SERVICE RESPONSE TROUBLESHOOTER JOB COMPLETION REQUIREMENT CREATION DATE: 7/16/21 REVISED: ASSIGNMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY: The Sr Director of Energy Operations or his designee shall be responsible for the maintenance of this procedure which is intended to: • Specify procedures to be followed by the Electric Troubleshooters when working on any Residential or Commercial JEA Service in a Non-Storm Related Event PROCEDURE: 1. General Description 1.1. Prior to responding to any JEA service address or reported location, the JEA Electric Troubleshooter will have a corresponding ticket created and assigned to them through our Outage Management System. The JEA Troubleshooter is responsible for acknowledging the ticket and for completing the ticket as required. 2. General Responsibilities 2.1. The Troubleshooter has a responsibility to acknowledge/accept all tickets assigned to them by the Station 2 Dispatcher. 2.2. The Troubleshooter is required to process each ticket through the correct status (Accept, En-route, Working & Complete) as required. 2.3. Upon the completion of each ticket, the JEA Troubleshooter is responsible for providing accurate details of the work completed and if additional work is needed. 3. Procedure The JEA Electric Troubleshooter is required to work each ticket that is assigned to them by the Station 2 Dispatcher. The Troubleshooter is required to cycle through each status of the job and ensure that the job ticket is filled out correctly with accurate information. Under no circumstances should a Troubleshooter perform any work on a JEA Residential or Commercial service without an appropriate ticket being created prior to work being started unless there is documented and/or verifiable Safety Concern that would cause damage to JEA or Customer Property. 3.1. In the event that a JEA Troubleshooter deems that a specific incident requires them to perform work without having a specific ticket assigned to them prior to, the JEA Troubleshooter is Required to Notify the Station 2 Dispatcher immediately Before and After work is completed so that they are aware of their location and a ticket can be appropriately created for documentation. Once ticket is received by the JEA Troubleshooter, they are required to fill out and document actions taken. If work is being performed without a prior ticket that will impact a JEA electric service, the Troubleshooter must attempt to contact the customer by phone or in person to ensure they’re aware of the work being done or what was completed. 4. Additional Requirements 4.1. The Manager of Energy Response is responsible to ensure all Energy Response personnel are familiar and trained on this procedure. 4.2. The Manager of Energy Response is responsible to review this procedure annually and update as necessary.

Regarding Moreno, Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend, and the no-contact order, “The state has to prefer charges,” says Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson, who worked for the FBI and has 30 years of law enforcement experience. “A court order been violated, and when a court order’s been violated, (the) result is there should be some punishment, otherwise the entire system fails,” says Carson.

A judge’s order had said, “the Defendant in fact violated the terms and conditions of pretrial release by having third parties contact the alleged victim by having electric service through the Jacksonville Electric Authority cut off at her home in the middle of the night.”

The State Attorney’s Office did modify Moreno’s pretrial release by placing him under house arrest, but did not charge Moreno specifically for his role in JEA cutting off Elizabeth’s power.

The state sent Becker a statement that reads in part, “While the conduct was inexcusable, it was ultimately determined no criminal charges were implicated by the facts.”

Elizabeth says she can’t forget the night her ex-boyfriend had her lights turned off.

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“What were his plans if he turned off my lights?” an exasperated Elizabeth told the JSO officer in the body camera video. “Honestly, I don’t know,” said the officer.

“How much do you worry this could happen to somebody else?” asked Becker. “I absolutely fear it could happen again and it could be horrendous, could be a fatal error on (the) part of JEA,” said Elizabeth.

JEA tells Becker the foreman who authorized cutting off Elizabeth’s power received a written reprimand, but was unaware James Moreno was not on the account. Becker contacted Moreno’s attorney, who had no comment for this story.

Elizabeth, who has now moved twice, says she eventually didn’t pursue the battery charges against Moreno because she fears retribution.

Read the full JEA policy below:

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