PANAMA CITY, FL (December 12, 2019) – According to an online news article published by www.newsherald.com, three Florida cousins are facing 25 counts of grand theft for allegedly stealing AT&T wire, with each charge amounting to between $5,000 to $10,000.
A local Sheriff's Office issued a press release stating that three cousins (two males and one female), aged 42, 54, and 54, were arrested after allegedly picking up "AT&T wire after Hurricane Michael in 2018 to process it, reduce it to copper wire, and to scrap it for cash." After all downed wire was collected, the three Florida suspects "began to steal the wire off of power poles."
In June of 2019, AT&T started filing complaints with the local Sheriff's Office regarding the theft of its wire. In addition to the downed wire being stolen, "spools of wire that were left for work crews to hang were also being stolen." AT&T alleges it had barely any time to replace wire before it was stolen again.
Because of the complaints, the local Sheriff's Office installed cameras in an area near a new section of sagging wire. Theft of this new sagging wire was captured on video, with one suspect being identified on the video. Further investigation revealed the two additional suspects, and a traffic stop was conducted on a vehicle with these two additional suspects inside.
During the traffic stop, police found wire inside the vehicle, and the female suspect in the vehicle had bolt cutters in her hand. While being questioned, the female suspect "began to twitch and shake," and one bag "containing 13.8 grams of methamphetamine dropped to the ground from beneath her shirt." The suspect subsequently kicked the bag under the vehicle, but police officers recovered it. In addition to grand theft charges, the female suspect faces a charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Police made contact with the suspect seen on video footage, and all three suspects ultimately admitted to being involved in a "scheme to steal wire, process it, and sell it for scrap" both in Florida and Alabama.
Committing Grand Theft in Florida
Florida law has a broad definition of grand theft that encompasses a wide variety of property and conduct that ranges in severity. Under Florida Statute Section 812.014, a person may face a grand theft charge if he or she unlawfully takes or uses property that is valued at more than $300 with the intent to deprive the owner of his/her rights to the property.
The punishment for grand theft in Florida is dependent on the severity of the conduct. The higher the value of the property, the more severe the punishment will be. A person faces a third-degree felony if the property in question is: (1) valued at more than $300, but less than $20,000, (2) a will, codicil, or other testamentary instrument, (3) a firearm, (4) a motor vehicle, (5) a commercially farmed animal, (6) a fire extinguisher, (7) any amount of citrus fruits consisting of more than 2,000 individual pieces of fruit, (8) a stop sign, (9) anhydrous ammonia, or (10) any amount of a controlled substance defined under Florida Statute Section 893.02. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
A person faces a second-degree felony if the property in question is: (1) valued at more than $20,000, but less than $100,000, (2) cargo valued at less than $50,000 that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper's loading platform to the consignee's receiving dock, (3) emergency medical equipment valued at $300 or more, or (4) law enforcement equipment valued at $300 or more. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
A person faces a first-degree felony if the property in question is (1) valued at $100,000 or more, (2) cargo valued at $50,000 or more that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper's loading platform to the consignee's receiving dock, or (3) if, in the course of committing any grand theft, the offender uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, other than merely as a getaway vehicle, to assist in committing the offense, causing damage to the real or personal property of another or (4) if in the course of committing any grand theft, the offender causes damage to the real or personal property of another that is valued at more than $1,000. A first-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.