Scrap metal shop owner charged with buying, receiving stolen property
Published: August 31, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The owner of a scrap metal company where police found thousands of dollars of stolen property Thursday afternoon made his initial court appearance in V.I. Superior Court on Friday and maintained his innocence, saying he would never violate the law and did not know the merchandise was stolen.
Francisco Antonio Aguedo, 48, of Western Suburb appeared before Magistrate Miguel Camacho on Friday morning after being charged in two separate cases with the crimes of conversion of government property and buying and receiving stolen property. The charges stem from a raid Thursday on his Estate Cottage business, Francis Metal Shop, where he was taken into custody.
Bail in each case was set at $10,000, and during Aguedo's hearing Friday, Camacho allowed him to post 10 percent of each bond in cash to secure his release.
According to the probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. Police Officer Andrea Claxton, she was a part of the joint task force operation that swept across the island as a result of continued reports of copper thefts.
The task force conducted impromptu inspections of seven scrap metal businesses to determine whether they had violated any of the regulations in place by the V.I. Fire Service, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, the V.I. Waste Management Authority or the Department Planning and Natural Resources Department.
In her report, Claxton said that once the officers converged on Francis Metal Shop, they fanned out across the property, and different officers reported back finding items that appeared to be stolen.
She said that in different areas of the scrap metal yard, officers found damaged manhole covers, hard-line equipment, equalizers and a spool of coaxial cable that fit the descriptions of equipment stolen from Innovative and other equipment identified as missing from the Innovative warehouse. While police await the appraisals on some of the stolen equipment, other items were estimated to total $8,000 worth of equipment.
At the time of his arrest, Aguedo told police that he bought the manhole covers from a man he did not know and that when he got them they were already shaved and defaced.
Claxton said Aguedo did not have identification or contact information for the seller but said it was an individual who works for Innovative who brought it to his home. Aguedo said he had video footage of the person who delivered the cable, and Claxton said forensic officers took possession of those videos.
Friday afternoon, Aguedo told The Daily News he came to St. Croix from his native Dominican Republic eight years ago and opened his metal business three years later.
He said he never would break the law or be a part of any illegal activity.
"I love St. Croix. I have my wife and family here and I want to see the island go up, not down," he said. "I don't like problems, and I want to have everything clear."
Aguedo said two men driving an Innovative van with a ladder on the roof were the persons who brought him the spools of cable and one of the men told Aguedo that he had completed his job and was leaving the island and did not need the cable any more so he would sell it for $90.
Aguedo said he provided police with the video footage from his home surveillance camera and also turned over the receipt and identification from the transaction.
"I told them that I had everything, but they still put the handcuffs on me and I spent one night in jail," Aguedo told The Daily News.
During a press briefing Friday, Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. applauded the work of the task force and said all business owners should be aware because more initiatives are forthcoming.
"Our community is suffering, and this illegal activity has got to stop," he said. "If you are buying or selling stolen property, we will be knocking on your door."
Francis Metal was cited for violations, and Aguedo's business permit has been suspended, and his permit and business license may be revoked.
Querrard said residents with information about illegal activities, such as cable and equipment theft, can report them to 911 or the Crime Stoppers USVI confidential tip line at 1-800-222-8477.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.