A contract employee who installed a sprinkler system in the Montana State University Billings library is accused of selling pipe materials instead of installing them.

Dustin James Jensen, 33, was charged with theft by embezzlement, a felony, and appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Wednesday. 

Justice of the Peace Pedro R. Hernandez set bond at $30,000.

Jensen, who was the foreman on the sprinkler system job, is accused of taking pipe that should have been installed at the library and unloading or selling it to recycling companies. He was fired from the Helena automatic sprinkler company, IT&M, after missing sections of pipe were discovered.

IT&M won a bid to upgrade the MSUB library's fire and sprinkler system in 2016 for $70,553, court documents state. Jensen led the work with the help of an apprentice, who denied any involvement.

On Aug. 15, the job was deemed complete after tests by the state fire marshal's office, an alarm company and the Billings Fire Department. Days later, an MSUB employee informed IT&M that pipes feeding the sprinkler heads appeared to be missing in the library's ceiling.

They found that while sprinklers were installed in the ceilings on the first floor, no pipes were there to feed water. The main source water pipe was capped at the first floor. This left the library without a working fire suppression system.

MSUB Campus Police began an investigation.

Multiple MSUB employees told police that they'd seen IT&M trucks full of new pipes at dumpsters and recycling bins on campus. One employee took some of the pipes out of a dumpster later on and delivered it to police, charges state.

An MSUB Campus Police officer went to Big Sky Steel and Salvage, where he found pipes and fittings with MSUB tags on them. A salvage employee found a receipt that showed the sale of 2,540 pounds of pipe for $82.55. A copy of Jensen's driver's license was attached to the sale form, according to court documents.

In an interview with police on Sept. 7, Jensen allegedly admitted to disposing of the pipe, saying he was under pressure to complete the work. The president of IT&M told police there was no pressure, and the job was deemed completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

The replacement work at the MSUB library cost $5,371. The overpaid labor was estimated up to $10,000.

Jensen is scheduled to appear in Yellowstone County District Court on Feb. 1.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.