The hardhats at the Homestead manhole were men at work on a $30,000 theft, cops say
What looked like workers doing repairs to a manhole on Old Dixie Highway late at night wasn't doing repairs for AT&T, but was stealing from AT&T, according to Homestead police.
Cops say they found 50 pieces of copper wire in black tubing that were worth $ 10,000 when legally sold but $ 30,000 when copper was sold on the black market.
The quintet arrested at 12:40 p.m. Sunday was Ivan Perez Garcia, 55, of South Miami-Dade. Yordan Ramirez of West Miami-Dade, 41; Miami's Francisco Gutierrez, 50; and Hialeahs Ermes Gonzalez-Pando (43) and Eric Gonzalez-Pando (24). All were charged with stealing copper from a utility or nonprofit service provider that caused harm and criminal mischief.
Ramirez, who was also accused of carrying a hidden weapon, was on bail for $ 15,000 after he was blown up on the same allegations in August.
At the hole around midnight
Police at the homestead said a previous copper wire theft explained how the operation worked:
The thieves would cut the copper wire and then seal it to hide damage from AT&T. After waiting a few days to make sure their masking trick was working, they showed up in full worker gear, including construction hats and traffic vests, with trucks and equipment for pulling out the wiring.
At around midnight Sunday on the 1300 block of Old Dixie Highway, a homestead officer saw five trucks that looked like the trucks believed to have been involved in the wire theft. He saw a man in a helmet in the manhole pulling the cables out of the hole, assisted by four similarly dressed men.
A call to an AT&T investigator confirmed that no crews should be working in the area.
The arrest reports say the copper was in a trailer pulled by a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 that was driven by Perez-Garcia. Perez-Garcia doesn't work for AT&T. Police say he claimed he was hired to drive the truck but couldn't tell them who hired him.
About half a mile away, Eric Gonzalez-Pando claimed similar amnesia after saying he was hired to drive a white GMC truck and direct traffic a week ago. Nor could he tell them his agreed hourly rate.
The others claimed nothing but their Miranda right to remain silent. Police say Ramirez has a .380 caliber Smith & Wesson rifle, which was reported lost by Hialeah police on Dec. 20, and a black .357 revolver.
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