Electrician Used Greasy Junk Food Bags to Hide His GPS Location and Skip Work

By Bryan Menegus on at

The work life of adults can be strange and alienating. Case in point: Supervisors of Tom Colella, a 60-year-old electrician working in Perth, Western Australia, knew he stored his company-issued PDA in empty bags of junk food for an indeterminate amount of time and apparently none of them asked any of the questions such a discovery merits. Such as:

Why are you doing that?

Is everything OK at home?

Are you—and this is just a theory, not an accusation—using a greasy foil bag to keep us from accessing your GPS location so you can skip work and go golfing?

As you may have guessed, Colella was indeed using bags of Twisties—an Australian fried corn snack food I’m told are like hard Wotsits—as improvised Faraday cages to obfuscate his location during work hours. “As an experienced electrician, Mr Colella knew that this bag would work as a faraday cage, thereby preventing the PDA from working properly—especially the provision of regular GPS co-ordinate updates,” a recent decision from Australia’s Fair Work Commission reads. “Mr Colella appears to have been deliberately mischievous in acting in this manner.”

Named for scientist Michael Faraday, a Faraday cage is typically an enclosure made from conductive wire mesh that blocks electromagnetic radiation. The essential principle is that if the spaces between in the wire mesh are smaller than a specific radiation’s wavelength, it is dispersed by the enclosure—and the gaps in a sheet of metal are considerably smaller than those in mesh. For a practical example, think of how cell phone service tends to disappear while inside an elevator.

Being of sound engineering mind, Colella used this foundational electrical property to his advantage, but failed to account for every single other way he was liable to get caught. For example, he worked at facilities which had their own access logs:

On the dates listed below your work order feedback data indicates that you undertook work at the Neerabup GWTP however your ID / Access card was not used at site on any of the dates. This suggests that you did not enter site.

And gate logs:

The gate logs at NWTP did not identify Mr Colella entering or leaving that facility on any of the identified days.

He also tried to pass off documents with visible pen marks as photocopies:

Mr Van Der Vaart claimed that the analyser logs that were handed to him by Mr Colella on 16 September 2016, were in an unusually pristine condition. Mr Colella claims that he provided coloured photocopies of the logs. The documents in exhibit AA6 are original documents. I have made this assessment on the basis that you can feel the indent of the numbers made by Mr Colella’s pen on the reverse side of the page.

And repeatedly took the phone out of the snack bag:

On the identified dates (set out in PN5 above), Mr Colella’s PDA GPS co-ordinates identified him being at home rather than at the appropriate worksite for the task that he claims he was undertaking.

Also getting paid without contributing anything tends to annoy one’s coworkers:

An anonymous letter was sent to [employer] Aroona claiming that Mr Colella had been playing golf when he was supposed to be working.

Incredibly, it was not until that letter was sent to Colella’s employer that his scheme was finally revealed. Colella now drives for Uber, NPR reports. [Ars Technica]

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