Man arrested for stealing copper from 80 utility poles

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A Bentleyville man who police said stole copper wire from “nearly every utility pole in the borough,” was arrested Friday on charges of criminal mischief, theft and receiving stolen property.


Cory Wayne Thomas George, 24, of 138 Pittsburgh Road, was charged after he admitted the thefts when questioned by Southwest Regional police, according to court documents.


On July 8, Bentleyville officials reported to police that copper ground wire had been removed from nearly every pole in the borough. While responding to an unrelated call on July 16, Officer Thomas Schwartz noticed a piece of copper wiring and black casing under the rear deck of George’s residence. The officer also saw burned casings and a large fire pit on the property. Fire pits are often used to burn casings off of stolen wire in order to sell the copper for scrap.


George agreed to speak with officers and admitted to stealing 6 feet of copper ground wire from at least 80 poles between June 27 and July 1. He told police he sold the wire at Ritenour’s Auto Wrecking in Ellsworth for about $140. Video surveillance from the business shows George making the transaction, police said.


While there were no power disruptions as a result of the theft, Southwest Regional Chief John Hartman said the criminal action warranted stiff charges.


“The danger to the defendant who actually cut the wire and the danger to the equipment was self-evident,” Hartman said.


“If the ground wires weren’t necessary, they wouldn’t be there.”


George was charged with a felony count of criminal mischief and misdemeanor receiving stolen property and theft charges.


“If you damage utility equipment,” the charges “rates up to a felony,” Hartman said. “If something goes wrong we have a lot of people – police, fire, hospitals – that depend on electricity.”


According to court documents, the copper wire belonged to FirstEnergy and caused $1,160 worth of damage.


George was arrested Friday morning at his residence. He was arraigned before District Judge Curtis Thompson and placed in Washington County jail on $25,000 bond.


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