CAPE CORAL, Fla - A Cape Coral woman who relies on oxygen to live, had her electricity turned off. Scared to death, she tampered with the meter. Now, she has to pay a hefty fee.
Frances Ballester tells me this mess all started when her landlord died a few months ago. His daughter, who lives in New York, took over, but never told Frances any bills were due. Fighting cancer for a second time, ballester relys on an electric oxygen tank to breathe. imagine her surprise when the electricity went out, leaving her gasping for air.
"Scared to death. my god, you can't breathe, you can't breathe," said Ballester. The lights went out for Frances Ballester more than one month ago.
"You can't cook, you can't eat, can't breathe, can't breathe is the scariest thing," said Ballester. Her landlord's daughter, didn't pay the bill. Faced with life or death, she chose to tamper with her meter, and turn the electricity back on herself.
"I needed oxygen! I couldn't stay alive without it," said Ballester.
Now she's stuck with a non negotiable fee, and still no electricity.
Living off social security, that's a fee she can't afford.
"And nobody wants to help, nobody wants to help," said Ballester.
Until WINK News stepped in, and reached out to her provider LCEC. They can't remove the tampering fee.
"We do take it very seriously. tampering is actually stealing electricity," said Karen Ryan of LCEC.
Because it's there to deter others from getting hurt.
"It's very very dangerous. In her case, it's not something we would prosecute. but it still is very serious, because it could kill you.
But LCEC is now working out a payment plan with Ballester, to get her back into her home.
"God, I would appreciate it. I would appreciate it so much," said Ballester.
It may take some time though. A socket connected to the meter is broken, meaning Ballester now needs to find an electrician she can afford.
"Anybody whose willing to help. saying as many prayers as I can," said Ballester.
LCEC tells me that once an electrician fixes the socket, the city will need to give final approval of the work. That's when LCEC can come in to turn the lights back on. Ballester has been living with friends and family since the lights went out. Thankfully her doctor was able to give her a portable oxygen tank as well.