A licensed electrician was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than 650 pounds of copper wire after Fresno County sheriff’s deputies spotted him pushing a cart loaded with the metal at a southeast Fresno recycling center.
Tony Botti, spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, said Richardo Avila, 32, of Fresno, is suspected of stealing scraps of copper wire from a construction site he was working at in Firebaugh. Botti said the scraps were supposed to be hauled to a recycling center by his employer, but instead Avila was taking a portion and cashing them in for himself.
Deputies spotted Avila pushing the cart full of 147 pounds of new, commercial-size copper wire around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Avila told deputies he had permission to sell the wire and gave them a false phone number for his boss to verify his story, Botti said.
Deputies said Avila eventually confessed to taking the wire from his job site without permission. The wire in his cart Wednesday was valued at $352 and deputies obtained receipts from the recycling center showing Avila made several transactions there from March to January totaling $1,565. Deputies also found more than 500 pounds of copper wire in Avila’s backyard, located on the 3700 block of Bellaire Way in central Fresno. The wire was returned to its owner, an electrical company in Bakersfield.
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Avila was booked into Fresno County Jail on suspicion of embezzlement and receiving stolen property. He posted bail early Thursday morning.
Botti said agricultural theft and vandalism are “huge problems in our community” and that two detectives were assigned to the Agricultural Crimes Task-Force this month to focus on metal theft. Anyone who suspects this criminal activity is asked to report it to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 600-3111 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP (7867).