Arnold man to be sentenced in cable theft 'A lot of people don't understand that what they were doing was stealing'

June 26, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An outlaw cable guy could spend five years in prison for altering converter boxes to give customers free access to premium cable channels.

Gerald D. Kosinski, 45, of the 100 block of Severn Way, Arnold, is scheduled to be sentenced July 25 by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. on two counts of theft. He could be fined up to $5,000.

Kosinski, a former satellite-television-system installer, admitted in court Monday that for a nine-month period ending in December he altered and sold converter boxes at a shop in his home. Assistant state's attorney M. Virginia Miles said that Kosinski took up his illegal tinkering after being asked repeatedly by customers if he could alter the boxes.

He was arrested after representatives at Jones Communications, the primary cable provider for central Anne Arundel County, saw his advertisement in the Annapolis-Crownsville edition of the Pennysaver in April 1995.

Jones Communications hired a private investigator, who posed as a potential customer and arranged with Kosinski to have two converters altered, Miles said.

He charged the private investigator $225 for one converter and offered to alter another for $125, Miles said. When police searched Kosinski's house several months ago they found seven converter boxes, tools to alter them and a 10-page list of what police believe are the customers, she said.

But she said many of those listed as customers are identified only by first names, nicknames or initials, making it difficult to track them down.

Thomas Gorman, systems-engineering manager for Jones Communications, said he is unsure how much Kosinski cost the Denver-based company or how often such cable thefts occur.

"This case has probably cost tens of thousands of dollars," he said.

Nationally, such thefts cost the cable industry $2 billion each year.

Gorman said that most of Kosinski's customers apparently subscribe legally to a few of Jones' cable channels and pick up the others for free.

Jones collects roughly $10 per month for each of the premium channels, including Showtime, Cinemax and the Movie Channel.

The fact that Kosinski openly advertised his services "indicates that a lot of people don't understand that what they were doing was stealing," said Gorman, who is asking that Kosinski be sentenced to 30 days in jail.

He said that the company is continuing to search for Kosinski's customers and to investigate other thefts.

Cable thieves are often turned in by neighbors and occasionally by their children, Gorman said.

"We get all kinds of calls," he said.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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