Authorities believe they have the “copper bandits” behind bars.
Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested three suspects Sept. 17 on charges stemming from a rash of reported copper thefts resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damages in recent months to local schools and businesses targeted in the crimes.
Now in custody at the Gadsden County Jail without bond are: Don Allen Cobbs Jr., 36, 77 Lucille Berry Lane, Quincy; Jon-athan Lanier Bostick, 30, 53 Fletcher Ave., Gretna; and Torian Derell Daniels, 28, 366 Canty Lane, Gretna. A fourth defendant is cooperating with authorities, according to GCSO spokes-man Capt. Jim Corder, and will be charged in connection with the reported thefts at a later time.
All three suspects were arrested on felony charges of grand theft and unarmed burglary of an occupied structure with other charges pending.
Corder said investigators made contact with the suspects during a traffic stop for a traffic violation. Inside the van, along with the four suspects, investigators found burned copper wire and a number of tools such as a saw, pliers, wire cutters and work gloves including a pair of blue welding gloves.
He estimated that the scrap value of the copper wire in the van would have been about $900.
Corder said the arrests cleared about 15 cases of copper wire theft within Gadsden County from businesses, homes, tomato packing houses and schools. He said the agriculture damage alone has exceeded $100,000 and the damage to the two schools affected — St. John Elementary school and Gretna Elementary School — is about $75,000.
“We’ve taken a big dent out of the copper wire theft in Gadsden County with the arrest of these criminals,” Corder said.
Bruce James, coordinator for safety security and investigation for Gadsden County Schools, said, “On behalf of the school board members as well as the superintendent, we really want to give high accolades to the sheriff’s office who has from the onset been on this case and did not stop until they could bring justice to the situation.”
While investigators at first suspected the alleged copper thieves had prior experience working with electrical wire, Corder said that is not the case, and the suspects were very lucky not to have been electrocuted.
Corder explained that copper wire thefts are particularly damaging because property owners not only have to replace the stolen wire and repair related damage, business such as tomato packing houses are unable to operate properly until the damage is repaired.
“Tomatoes are a huge part of our economy,” Corder said.
He said Sheriff Morris A. Young is adamant that the state attorney prosecute the defendants to the full extend of the law.