Warrants obtained in thefts from well, pipeline sites

April 14, 2014

State police obtained arrest warrants from District Judge Ethan Ward for three men accused of stealing copper, batteries and other items from gas well pads and pipeline sites last month. The thefts also halted production at two well pads.

Jeffrey B. Little Sr., 38, of 74 Highland Ave., Avella, is charged with four counts of criminal mischief, six counts of theft, seven counts of conspiracy, five counts of criminal trespass and three counts of trespass by motor vehicle. He is currently in Butler County jail.

Brian K. Chipps, 32, and John Robert Speers, 39, both of Weirton, W.Va., were also charged. Chipps faces two counts each of criminal mischief and criminal trespass, three counts of theft and five counts of conspiracy. Speers is charged with two counts each of criminal mischief, theft and criminal trespass and four counts of conspiracy. Both men are currently incarcerated in Brooke County (W.Va.) jail.

Production was halted on three occasions at a Range Resources well pad on Buck Run Road in Donegal Township when solar batteries were stolen. Little and Chipps reportedly stole batteries together March 4. Little and Speers alleged stole more batteries March 11 while Little reportedly was alone March 22 when he again stole batteries, according to court documents.

The thefts caused power losses at the well pad. Gas production was stopped for several hours, causing more than $5,000 in lost production each time, police stated in court documents.

Power was also knocked out at a well pad on Raccoon Run Road in Independence Township when all three reportedly stole 16 batteries.

The stolen batteries were valued at almost $43,000.

Little is also accused of cutting a lock off a storage box at the MarkWest Liberty Mainstream pipeline on Buffalo Creek Road, Buffalo Township, March 1, and stealing six deep cycle batteries valued at $4,800 and copper valued at $125.

Little and Chipps also reportedly stole batteries from equipment parked at a contractor’s work site on Brush Run Road in Independence March 9.

The Brooke County sheriff’s office is investigating similar thefts, police said.

The three men will be arraigned at a later date before Ward.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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