Authorities have busted a dozen people — most of them employees of a Doral utility company — who they say stole more than $500,000 in underground copper cable across South Florida.
Seven of the people arrested Tuesday work were employees of Megatran, which was contracted by Florida Power & Light to install, maintain and repair underground cables. FPL itself requested an investigation after its wires began popping up in metal recycling companies that had bought the stolen cables.
The thieves wore hard hats and reflective vests so they could “in plain sight” steal the wires from underneath manhole covers.
Prosecutors and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described the ringleader as Giovany Rodolfo Regidor, a Megatran foreman. Agents spotted his truck at Barrios Scrap and Recycling in Miami, which is believed to have bought the stolen wires.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The investigators tailed Regidor, repeatedly seeing him and his cohorts stealing copper wires. In one instance in September 2014, 400 feet of cable – valued at nearly $8,000 – was pulled from the construction site of the Brickell City Center construction site, according to an arrest warrant.
Loaded into his truck, the wires were taken to a warehouse, where they were later picked up by a truck registered to Metal Mover Inc, a recycle scrap yard.
In other cases, prosecutors say Regidor and his crew used their expertise to steal wires, cordoning off areas around manhole covers with yellow safety tape while pumping out water before lowering chains down underneath the street and using trucks to haul up the wires..
Many of the suspected thefts were captured on video covertly shot by agents.
“These thieves aimed to put dollars in their pockets by severing those lines of electrical power that keep the pulse of our community beating,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
The group has been charged with racketeering, grand theft and other white-collar charges.
The suspects were being held in Miami-Dade County jail. It was not immediately known if any of them had retained lawyers.