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COLONIE: Copper caper leads to five arrests

The raw copper was initially taken to local scrap yards to be traded in. After a while, the group began transporting the metal to New York City to fetch a better price, said police.

Under state law, the scrap yards kept records of the transactions. Police were able to determine that the four were collecting anywhere from $300 to $400 a trip. In a month they had made approximately $100,000, said Masterson.

Roberts allegedly recruited the others to help him collect and transport the stolen metals to scrap dealers, police said.

In December 2006, police put National Grid's Troy site under surveillance once the utility company realized that the 1,000-foot spools were missing. In a December sting, Menands and state police caught Roberts with two, 1,000-foot spools cut up and ready to be put into awaiting vehicles.

Roberts has since been indicted by Albany County. The other three suspects have been placed under arrest. More arrests could come as the investigation continues, said O'Brien.

Dell and the Lashways are facing up to seven years in state prison if convicted, said Albany County prosecutor Lawrence Wiest. Roberts could serve between six and 18 years in prison for his role in the thefts, Wiest said.

A recent check at metalprices.com showed copper prices to be at $2.72 per pound.

As prices for precious metals increases, thefts like those at the National Grid site will continue, said police. Other utility companies and telecommunication companies like Verizon have also experienced recent thefts of expensive cable.

Nationally, thefts of utility and wire spurred the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to urge state and local law enforcement to work together with utility companies to deter the thefts of the metals, copper in particular.

According to the department, seven individuals were electrocuted last year when attempting to steal copper wire from electrical power generation or substation facilities.""

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