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UPDATE: Guilty Plea in Rash of Telephone Wire Thefts

By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 6/27/13 @ 11:30 a.m.
LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) – One of the two men indicted in connection with a rash of copper thefts in Lawrence County, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to the charges.

In March a Lawrence County Grand Jury indicted Brian Bloomfield, 34, of Pedro, and Randy Depriest Jr., 30, of Pedro, in connection with stealing copper phone wire.

Bloomfield was indicted on 30 counts and Depriest Jr. on 31 counts.

Wednesday, Bloomfield pleaded guilty to 16 counts of disrupting public service and 14 counts of tampering with evidence. Following the plea, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Investigators say the pair stole the wire from rural areas and took it to scrap yards to sell. This took away the only form of communication for some residents in those areas.

According to investigators, the thefts happened more than a dozen times over several months early this year.

Depriest has a pretrial hearing on the charges next month.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/28/13 @ 12:30 p.m.
LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Two men have been indicted in connection with a rash of copper thefts in the Lawrence County, Ohio area.

A Lawrence County, Ohio Grand Jury has indicted Brian Bloomfield, 34, of Pedro, and Randy Depriest Jr., 30, of Pedro, in connection with stealing copper phone wire.

According to court documents, Bloomfield was indicted on 30 counts and Depriest was indicted on 31 charges.

Investigators say the pair stole the wire from rural areas and took it to scrap yards to sell -- taking away the only form of communication for some residents in those areas.

According to investigators, the thefts happened more than a dozen times in the last several months.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/14/13 @ 10 p.m.
LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Two men have been arrested and charged with multiple thefts of copper telephone wire from Lawrence County, Ohio.

The thefts accounted for dozens of outages of phone and internet service since last June, investigators say.

The Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff charged 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.

Terry Barker likes life in rural Elizabeth Township with his horses. The family farm also doubles as his wife's business headquarters.

"She can't operate without a phone,” he said. “Our internet is over the phone line too. When both of them are out she's completely shut down."

Most areas affected don't have cell service, so if someone has an emergency and needs to call police or an ambulance and the land lines are down, they've got a problem.

“I realize (the thieves) get a little money, but just think about what you're doing to a lot of people who depend on phones," Elizabeth Township Trustee Ron Davis said.

“These thefts have been a great concern to my office because the lack of phone service can be detrimental in these areas,” Sheriff Jeff Lawless said.

Lawless says the men admitted they would enter 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 region.

The length of wire taken in a theft ranged from 50 to 1,200 feet.

Lawless says there were 80 reported cases of theft since last June in Upper, Elizabeth, Lawrence, and Decator Townships. He estimates the cost of the theft and damage at hundreds of thousands of dollars to all those that have been victimized.

“This investigation took several months because we had to develop suspects with little to go on," Lawless said.

The sheriff says the investigation continues and more charges are expected to be filed against the two men as well additional arrests.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Two men have been arrested and charged with multiple thefts of copper telephone wire from Lawrence County, Ohio. Thefts, that investigators say accounted for dozens of outages of phone and internet service since last June.

The Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff charged Brian Bloomfield, 34 of Pedro, Ohio and Randy DePriest, 30 of Pedro with 15 counts of disrupting public service and 15 counts of tampering with evidence.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless say the men admitted they would enter 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 region. The length of wire taken in a theft ranged from 50 to 1200 feet.

Lawless says there were 80 reported cases of theft since last June. He estimates the cost of the theft and damage at hundreds of thousands of dollars to all those that have been victimized.

The Sheriff says the thefts left residents without the ability to contacts emergency services since most of these areas do not have cell phone service and residents rely on a landline.

“These thefts have been a great concern to my office because the lack of phone service can be detrimental in these areas,” said Lawless. “This investigation took several months because we had to develop suspects with little to go on.”

Sheriff Lawless say the investigation continues and more charges toe be file against the two men as well additional arrests.


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