Two Ohio men were arrested and charged with multiple thefts of copper telephone wire from Lawrence County, Ohio.
Brian Bloomfield, 34, of Pedro, and Randy Depriest, 30, of Pedro, with 15 counts of disrupting public service and 15 counts of tampering with evidence, according to the Lawrence County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office.
The thefts accounted for dozens of outages of phone and Internet service since last June, according to investigators.
The men admitted entering a rural area out of sight to the public, pull down the wire, cut the wire, and then take the wire to a location where they would burn off the insulation before selling it at various scrap yards across the Tri-State area, said Sheriff Jeff Lawless. The length of wire taken in a theft ranged from 50 to 1,200 feet.
The scrapping of the metal paid pennies on the dollar as to what the original cost of the wire is and what it will cost to repeat it, the release said.
There were 80 reported cases of theft since last June, Lawless said. The disruptions left residents with no way to communicate or contact emergency services should they have been needed. Many of the areas do not have cellphone coverage and rely on landlines.
“These thefts have been a great concern to my office because the lack of phone service can be detrimental in these areas,” said Lawless in a release. “This investigation took several months because we had to develop suspects with little to go on.”
Lawless said the investigation is ongoings and more charges are expected to be file against the two men as well additional arrests.
B.J. Smith, the AT&T External Affairs Director for southeast Ohio, issued a statement saying they would “aggressively pursue those whose thefts impact our networks and service.” We will continue to coordinate with law enforcement agencies here in Lawrence County and across the country as they work to stop these dangerous and costly crimes.”
AT&T has invested more than $1.5 billion in its Ohio wireless and wireline networks from 2010 through 2012, according to a release.