BAY CITY, MI May 13 2017 -- A Bay County man who initially faced a felony after he allegedly stole nearly $26,000 in electricity to help grow medical marijuana has pleaded down to a lesser count.
Bryan P. Lauria, 49, on Wednesday, May 10, appeared before Bay County District Judge Mark E. Janer and pleaded no contest to fraudulent use of a public utility less than $500, a 90-day misdemeanor. In exchange, the prosecution agreed to dismiss a four-year felony of fraudulent use of a public utility more than $500.
By pleading no contest, Lauria did not verbally admit to having committed a crime. Janer had to reply on police reports contained in court files to enter a conviction on the record.
Those reports state that on Feb. 23, a Consumers Energy employee contacted the Michigan State Police after inspecting Lauria's home in the 1400 block of North Mackinaw Road in Fraser Township. The employee told a responding trooper he received a tip that Lauria had been stealing power via an illegal connection.
The employee determined a second breaker panel was installed in the house's basement and then hardwired with jumper cables to the electrical panel outside the residence.
A Consumers employee told police that while he was inspecting the residence, Lauria exited his house and was acting nervous, pacing back and forth.
Lauria told police he is a licensed medical marijuana grower with five patients. He provided the necessary documentation and let the trooper inspect his basement grow room.
Including himself as a patient, Lauria could legally grow 72 plants. The trooper wrote in his report that Lauria appeared to be growing no more than that amount and his operation was in accordance with the law.
Lauria denied any knowledge of an illegal power hookup or how a second breaker was being used inside his house. He said his power usage had dropped because he was using more efficient heat bulbs and was no longer using an air conditioner, police reports show.
Consumers determined Lauria's account showed a significant drop starting Dec. 19, 2014. In the months before that, Lauria used 5,000 to 6,000 kilowatt-hours; in subsequent months, that rate dropped to 1,000 to 1,500, according to police records.
In all, Lauria is alleged to have stolen $25,954.64 in electricity. With a security deposit, investigation charges, and the balance before the theft factored in, Lauria's tab jumped to a grand total of $27,123.99.
On Feb. 24, Lauria visited the Saginaw County Consumers office and paid the balance.
Authorities issued a warrant for Lauria on March 9 and he was arraigned on April 24.
Lauria is represented by Bay City attorney Jason P. Gower.
"We thank the Bay County Prosecutor's Office for a very fair and objective review of the facts and circumstances of Mr. Lauria's case and feel this resolution is consistent with justice," Gower said.
Judge Janer is to sentence Lauria at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 15.