Copper thief caught in the act in Hemet

POSTED: 08:08 AM PDT Apr 03, 2013 
Copper Wire Theft
HEMET, Calif. -

A suspected metal thief was allegedly caught in the act of stealing wiring from street lights in Hemet today.

Anthony Emilio, 37, of Hemet allegedly had spools of metal wiring that stretched several hundred feet loaded into his car, according to Lt. Duane Wisehart.

A resident in the area of Florida Avenue and Four Seasons Boulevard called 911 around 2:30 a.m. when he spotted a man underneath a street light, behaving suspiciously, the lieutenant said.

Officers arrived moments later and spotted the suspect, who fled on foot, according to Wisehart. The patrolmen did not give chase, electing instead to stake out a car parked at the scene they believed belonged to the man, he said.

"A couple hours later, the suspect returned to the vehicle and began to drive away when he was stopped and detained by (the) officers," Wisehart said.

A search of the vehicle revealed rolls of allegedly stolen wire.

Emilio was booked into the Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of grand theft. He's being held in lieu of $5,000 bail.

The Inland Empire has been plagued by copper-related thefts over the last seven or more years as offenders have targeted fire hydrants, manhole covers, street lights, air conditioning units, irrigation pumps and other devices for their copper content, which can be redeemed at recycling facilities for cash.

State law requires junk dealers to record each transaction and, if possible, ascertain the origin of the redeemed products. Violating the law can result in hundreds of dollars in fines.