Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Probe Snags LIRR ‘Copper Crooks’ in Huge Theft Ring

Nassau County prosecutors will be calling 15 Long Island Rail Road communication workers “Copper Crooks” once an indictment is unsealed on Friday. The linemen who specialize in the installation of fiber optics and telephone systems will be criminally charged with the theft of more than $250,000 dollars in scrap copper metal since 2010. The communications workers stole new and used copper wiring from LIRR job sites and facilities across the area, with the Babylon Yard in West Islip, and the Morris Park maintenance facility in Jamaica, Queens, as the primary targets.

The copper wire would be taken and stripped, and then sold to a Long Island scrap yard for cash, after which, the proceeds were split amongst the participants in the scheme.

They took anything they could get their hands on,” said a source close to the investigation.

On Friday, the union first received word of the more than two-year investigation by the Nassau County district attorney, the MTA inspector general’s office and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department.

The fifteen linemen — who have been on the job from between 5 and 25 years — were taken out of their rotations upon arrival at work Tuesday morning. The LIRR has suspended the workers with pay and will suspend them without pay once they are charged.

The workers are set to turn themselves in at 7 a.m. Friday in Mineola, where they will be hit with felony grand larceny, possession of stolen property, conspiracy and other charges.

The alleged thefts by the workers date back to 2010, with some sources estimating the amount stolen was “well over” $400,000.

The theft of copper is a booming black-market industry because of increased worldwide demand. Copper is now selling for $3.70 a pound — up from $1.48 just four years ago. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 11, 2013]

The National Insurance Crime Bureau,has estimated that metal theft costs American businesses around $1 billion a year.

 “Thieves have been willing to go to almost any length to obtain the metal,” according to the report.

“They have stripped sheets of metal from building rooftops, stolen memorial decorations from cemeteries, ripped apart air conditioners for the copper coils within, and stripped homes and buildings of wiring and piping.”  [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 14, 2012]