Phone service cut by copper thieves

Bryon Wayne Powell has been charged with theft of copper
March 15, 2010 4:12:02 PM PDT
Phone lines for hundreds of AT&T customers went dead late Sunday, courtesy of suspected copper thieves. A sheriff's deputy on patrol happened to stumble across the crime as it was happening. This isn't the first time someone has tried to cut the lines on the same road in Montgomery County. AT&T says it's happened three times recently. But this time, sheriff's deputies made an arrest.

Byron Wayne Powell is the man a Montgomery County Sheriff's deputy arrested Sunday night after coming across cut wires on a dark road in the middle of the night.

Lt. Dan Norris with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department said, "When he stopped to investigate, he turned his spotlight on and saw several suspects run in the woods."

Deputies are still looking for the others. About 300 AT&T customers lost phone and DSL service today. Powell was convicted in 2006 on drug possession and now is facing a theft of copper charge -- a felony that could land him in a state jail for up to two years.

AT&T says, "Tampering with phone lines that citizens may use to place emergency calls is a serious crime, and AT&T takes it very seriously."

It is the third time in recent weeks these AT&T lines have been cut and neighbors say never mind the rural setting, there's a crime problem here.

Brenda Landry, who works nearby, said "That's desperation, desperation for money. It's sad, I mean, get a job."

"I think it's just a sign of the economy," nearby worker Tommy Burttschell. "As things get worse in the economy, so up goes the crime."

Copper thefts have been on the rise because thieves sell the metal to scrap metal dealers. One salvage yard in Conroe quoted $3 a pound today.


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