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    3 men charged in cable scheme

    They conspired to fraudulently hook up people to Time Warner cable, investigators say.

    By JOSH ZIMMER

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 2, 2001


    TAMPA -- The deal was apparently too good to refuse:

    Pay a one-time installation fee of no more than $300 and get cable service from Time Warner with no monthly bill.

    For three years, Hillsborough sheriff's investigators said Friday, former Time Warner Communications subcontractor David Lane offered people the one-time payment plan.

    About 3,800 took him up on the offer, investigators said.

    Monday, deputies searched Lane's home at 6422 Wilshire Blvd. and found a cache of Time Warner equipment in a van. Lane, a Home Depot employee, was charged with multiple counts of fraud, theft and obtaining illegal cable service.

    Two of his friends, the owners of pizza parlors, also were arrested. One of them played an integral role in finding customers, Sgt. Tony Kolka said.

    By Thursday, the Sheriff's Office had arrested 42 people for buying illegal cable service. They are being charged with misdemeanors or felonies depending on how long they had the service, he said.

    If they received service valued at $300 or more, the equivalent of eight months worth of service, they will be charged with a felony.

    Officials said the illegal installation allowed customers to unscramble premium channels, such as movie networks, pay-per-view events and adult stations.

    "We're going to try to arrest as many (customers) as we can," Kolka said.

    Lane, 38, was charged with organized fraud, criminal conspiracy, possession of five or more illegal cable communications receiving devices, unauthorized reception and assisting in the interception of unauthorized cable television and grand theft.

    He also was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

    His friend, Barry Durrance, 34, of 4211 Harbor Lake Drive in Lutz, was charged with organized fraud, criminal conspiracy, three counts of grand theft and unauthorized reception of cable television.

    Durrance owns two Tampa pizza parlors, Westshore Pizza V on S Howard Avenue and Westshore Pizza III on Hanley Road, and was steering potential customers to Lane, Kolka said.

    Another friend, Dahl Phillips, 33, of 22204 Laver Lane in Land O'Lakes, was charged with unauthorized reception of cable television.

    Time Warner contacted the Sheriff's Office in April after employees claimed someone was installing illegal service, Kolka said.

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