A string of copper wire thefts from utility companies in several counties was found to have originated in a Liberty County home.
According to Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Detective Brian Barnes, detectives from Wayne County arrested two people last week in connection with thefts of copper wire spools from utility companies in Liberty, Brantley, Effingham and Glynn counties.
Arrested was Richard Haymans, 27, and Cristy Willoughby, 28, who lived in a mobile home on the 400 block of Live Oak Church Road in Liberty County.
The thefts came to light after Christmas when workers at the Okefenoke Electrical Cooperative in Nahunta discovered several reels of copper missing from the plant yard. John Simpson of the Brantley County Sheriff’s Department was notified and he contacted recycling centers in the region.
Simpson, who talked with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department about the copper thefts, was notified Dec. 29 of a couple who sold 500 pounds of copper to an unidentified recycling center.
On Dec. 31, Willoughby dropped Haymans off at a gas station and attempted to sell an additional 600 pounds of copper to the same center. As she waited to unload the copper, recycling center employees notified police that Willoughby had returned with another load. Simpson and Wayne County deputies, who were in the area investigating the thefts, arrested Willoughby before she could complete the transaction.
Haymans was later arrested without incident at a gas station in Jesup.
Detectives searched Willoughby's home and found spools of wire and a tool used to strip installation. The wire, according to Barnes, can bring in $1.50 a pound at recycling centers.
Haymans is charged with theft by taking, a felony, and criminal trespass in Liberty and Brantley counties as well as theft by receiving in Wayne County. Willoughby is charged with theft by receiving in Wayne and Liberty counties.
The companies hit by the pair include Okefenoke Electric Cooperative, Coastal Electric Cooperative in Midway, Georgia Power in Effingham, Liberty and Glynn counties and CentuaryTel in Hinesville.
Georgia Power investigator Glenn Stewart told Barnes the combined total dollar value of the thefts may
add up to about $30,000.
Georgia Power spokesman Jeff Wilson said in a telephone interview from Atlanta the company has lost an estimated $1,600 due to copper wire and brass thefts.
“This has been a problem in recent years as the price of copper goes up. The wire was stolen off the back of our utility trucks parked in the fenced yards,” Wilson said. He said his company will seek restitution when a suspect is convicted.
J. Mark Bolton, vice president of marketing and member relations for Coastal Electric Cooperative in Midway, said the company had a $150 spool of wire stolen and later recovered.
“This is a problem we have had to deal with over the years, but we require our personnel to remove all wire from their vehicles and secure it in a building,” Bolton said. “We have cut down on theft significantly by doing this.”