Copper wire theft interrupts phone service for more than 180 customers on St. Croix
Published: October 23, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Service to all of the Innovative Telephone customers who experienced outages Monday as a result of copper wire theft to the company's outside plant facilities has been restored, according to company officials.
Jennifer Matarangas-King, Innovative's vice president of public relations and governmental affairs, said Tuesday evening that more than 180 residents of Estate Concordia, Salt River Marina and Gentle Winds Condos were affected by the theft.
After an investigation into the disruption of service, the company realized that they had once again fallen victims to copper wire thieves in that area, she said.
Once the problem area was identified, Innovative's technical crews were on-site repairing the damage and continued to work until the Innovative telephone service was fully restored, according to Matarangas-King.
"Most of the residents that were affected, with the exception of five, were restored Monday night, and the technicians were able to restore service to the remaining customers Tuesday morning," she said.
Dennis Chance, vice president of Engineering and Operations, issued a statement saying that the company will continue to work closely with local authorities to prevent the thefts of copper wire that have grown far too common. He said purposeful disruption of telecommunication services is a federal offense because it may affect the ability of emergency responders and other individuals to communicate.
"Innovative has enlisted the aid of both the local and federal authorities in apprehending these perpetrators, and our officials are encouraging anyone with information concerning the theft to contact the authorities," Chance said.
In addition to reports that residents and businesses had been victimized by having air-conditioning and other wiring removed for its copper content, public utilities continuously have been victimized by the copper thieves.
Innovative Telephone has had about nine incidents of theft since July. Incidents included reports of spans of 400-pair cable being stolen, leaving hundreds of Innovative Telephone subscribers without service.
Police believe a number of people are involved and have arrested Randy Stickle, 40, of no fixed address, and charged him with grand larceny; possession of stolen property; possession of drug paraphernalia; and tampering with a utility, after he was found riding a bicycle on the road with stolen wire.
Police also arrested Paul Julius Nagy, 40, of California, charging him with grand larceny and selling, buying or possession of stolen property after he was identified as the person who brought stolen utility wires and other equipment to Francis Metal, a scrap metal business, to be sold.
Francisco Antonio Aguedo, 48, of Western Suburb, the owner of the scrap metal company where police found thousands of dollars of stolen property, also was charged in two separate cases with conversion of government property and buying and receiving stolen property, but he adamantly maintains his innocence.
Anyone with information can call 911 or the confidential tip line at Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222-8477.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.