A Brooklyn, Ohio, man has been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to steal copper from two dozen substations in Northeast Ohio owned by First Energy or Cleveland Public Power.
Michael T. Butts, 33, was also ordered to pay more than $242,626 in restitution to First Energy Corp. by U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson.
Butts and six other men previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to damage energy facilities. Previously sentenced are:
- William Bertini, 26, of Olmsted Falls, to two years in prison
- Christopher M. Butts, 27, of Cleveland, to four years and seven months in prison
- Jason B. Kauffman, 35, of Cleveland, to three years and one month in prison
- Julio Torres, 46, of Cleveland, to two year and three months in prison
- Jon T. Lefort, 26, of Cleveland, to one year and three months in prison
- keven Wenson, 22, of Lakewood, to two years of supervised release
The thefts took place between January and May 2013 and included substations in Brooklyn, Parma, Brecksville, Fairlawn, Medina, Cleveland, Wadsworth, Lakewood, Cuyahoga Heights, Independence, Vermillion, Lorain, Avon Lake, Westlake, and Valley View, according to court documents.
The 24 substations listed in the indictment have copper material around their bases that facilitated the transmission of electricity. Removal of the copper material from a substation causes a substantial risk of electrical blackouts, as well as possible injury or death to utility company employees responsible for maintaining, servicing, and repairing the substations, according to court documents.
Christopher and Michael Butts instructed Lefort, Bertini, Kauffman, Wenson, and Torres how to remove the copper material from the substation in a way that would minimize the risk of physical harm to the person cutting the wire or cable. The defendants used bolt cutters to cut fencing and/or locks protecting the substations, according to court records.
The defendants then unlawfully extracted the copper wire and materials from the substations, manually carrying it in garbage cans, duffel bags, contractor bags and other containers to “staging areas.” From there, the copper material was transported to scrap yards, where it was sold for cash, according to court documents.
Court documents detail 25 copper thefts and five attempted thefts. It also lists 53 instances where at least some of the defendants sold stolen copper to area scrap yards between January and April 2013.
The defendants collectively sold the stolen copper for more than $15,000. They have collectively been ordered to pay $242,626 to First Energy Corp. for the cost of repairs to the substations.