Suspects caught on third night of copper thefts

Published 8:27 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On night three of thefts, two men were caught in the act of stealing spools of copper wire at the Century Link office in Washington this week.

Paul Robin Jordan, 49, and Charles Ross Hunter, 67, both of Belvidere, were charged with three counts of felony larceny, and three counts of first degree trespass on an infrastructure, after they were arrested late Monday night by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

According to Lt. Jim Vanlandingham, the men were identified through a neighboring business’ surveillance video that showed them in a full-sized pickup truck, climbing the Century Link fence and taking the spools of wire on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

On the third night, sheriff’s office patrol units were looking for a repeat, when the deputy on surveillance called for backup.

“Deputies watched as the same two men loaded two spools of copper wire into the back of the truck,” according to a press release. “Seconds after the two men drove away deputies conducted a traffic stop.”

The men were arrested and are being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center, each on a $40,000 secured bond. The men also face charges of felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle and larceny of a motor vehicle, as the truck they were driving was stolen in Perquimans County, according to the release.

Today scrap copper is worth $1.45 a pound, which doesn’t make it too attractive for thieves anymore, according to Vanlandingham.

“At one time a few years back, it was twice that. It was like 3 to 4 dollars a pound, which made it high demand for the people who wanted to steal it,” Vanlandingham said.

However, in 2013, North Carolina became more stringent with the process by which scrap metal could be sold. The modified law was an attempt to curb the rash of thefts across the state. During that time, Beaufort County saw copper control wire stolen from a farm irrigation system in Pantego, copper wire stolen from Tideland EMC substations, Duke Energy, PotashCorp-Aurora, F. Ray Moore Oil Co. and more. The increased scrutiny of sellers of scrap metal has led to a decrease in metal theft, he said.

“They can still sell it, but the mechanism in place is the salvage companies are required by law to check IDs,” Vanlandingham said. “That’s also a bit of deterrent for those who steal it because they know that we can trace it.”