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Alleged copper thief in jail, awaiting legal action

A 28-year-old Virginia man has been charged with five counts of grand larceny and other charges for allegedly stealing copper from power substations.

Authorities said the man took the copper from the substations in New Kent County, Virginia. He allegedly stole the material on several instances from July 30 through Sept. 10. Additional charges include four felony counts of damage to a public utility, four misdemeanor trespassing counts and a single felony count of destruction of property.

The local sheriff's office said the man entered the substations five times, cutting copper ground wire. Thousands of dollars of damage ensued, though authorities did not say just much copper was stolen. He also was arrested in September for allegedly stealing copper from a cell tower site.

The man currently is jailed at Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail without the possibility of bond.

Copper theft has grown in popularity, with scrap copper now bringing about $3.60 per pound. New Kent County has had about 18 copper theft cases this year, according to the chief deputy of the New Kent Sherriff's Office. A sergeant at the nearby York County Sheriff's Office reported that he alone has been involved in 21 cases of copper theft this year.

The state legislature passed a law several years ago that requires anyone who sells copper to present identification and proof of purchase of scrap metal if not a licensed contractor. Salvage yard owners who take in the copper are required to report it to the police or the business if the copper has a company name stamped on it.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said that the theft of precious metal has risen 81 percent since 2008, with 96 percent of claims involving copper. Copper thieves have hit a variety of businesses and homes and walked off with copper wiring, piping and such.

The man will have a chance to tell his story in court proceedings which have yet to be scheduled.

Source: The Virginia Gazette, "Toano man charged with copper thefts," Dec. 5, 2012

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