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Elderly Woman's Heat Shut Off, Hit With $44,000 Peoples Gas Bill

CHICAGO (CBS) -- She was told Peoples Gas needed to replace her meter. That's where her nightmare began. Her gas was cut off and, on Wednesday, she got a new bill for more than $44,000, accused of stealing gas.

CBS 2's Pamela Jones went looking for answers.

"I don't have that kind of money, I don't have it," Annie Morish said of her gas bill for $44,206.82. "I guess I'm just going to stay here until I freeze."

Without heat, Morish sits dressed in layers, facing a cold future with a gigantic gas bill, payable by March 1.

"They've got to be crazy. I called them and they told me it had to be paid," Morish said.

She said she's been without heat for two weeks, ever since Peoples Gas came to install a new gas meter at her two-flat on the South Side.

Without gas service, the thermostat in her home registered at 55 degrees on Wednesday, only a little warmer than it was outside.

Morish said the company removed her old gas meter, accusing her of stealing gas.

"I'm 70 years old. When did I dig up? When did I go down in the basement and … change some pipes?" Morish said.

She said she was never cited for any theft.

For now, she tends to her dying plants, with space heater after space heater running to warm the place; about 10 of them in all.

"Freezing; I'm staying in the back. I've got heaters all over the place," she said, hoping someone can help her. "How am I going to get some heat in here?"

Morish said she has been paying $100 to $150 a month for gas for years.

Peoples Gas issued a statement Thursday in response to CBS 2's report.

The utility "discovered an illegal connection into our service pipe that was bypassing the meter," the statement said. "As a result our crew disconnected this property. Once a payment arrangement has been agreed, we will send our service crews back."

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