Copper wire thieves caught red-handed

Suspects were in possession of wire, tools
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
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Three suspects were caught in the act of stealing copper wire Tuesday morning from a traffic advisory message sign on westbound Interstate 80 west of Cisco Grove. The collaborate effort between the California Highway Patrol Gold Run Area and Caltrans led to the arrest of Herb Henrikson, 29, Justin LeBoutheller, 31, and John Paulin, 46, all from the North Highlands area. CHP officers Schuyler Bell and Chris Crabtree, as part of an on-going investigation, located a vehicle parked in an area where several Caltrans electrical boxes had been previously vandalized by stripping the copper wire from them. When arrested, the three suspects had the stolen copper wire, and the tools used to remove it, in their possession. Henrikson, LeBoutheller and Paulin were taken into custody without injury or incident and booked into the Nevada City County Jail, where they are being held in custody as further investigation is being conducted. Officer Todd Kettwig, public information officer for the CHP Gold Run Area, said that over the last year wiring has been taken from Caltrans electrical junction boxes at Eagle Lakes, Cisco Grove, Hampshire Rocks and Gold Run. He said Caltrans estimates the cost of replacing the wiring in the boxes, which power the overhead lights and the illuminated message boards, at $4 per foot. Kettwig didn't have a total cost available. While Kettwig doesn’t suspect Henrikson, LeBoutheller and Paulin are responsible for the thefts at all of the junction boxes, he said he’s “sure they’re part of the ring.” John Arrabit, CHP Gold Run Area Lieutenant Commander, said this type of vandalism can be costly and dangerous. “Not only are the costs associated with replacing the stolen wire and repairing damaged equipment a great expense to California taxpayers, these criminal acts also compromise public safety,” Arrabit said. Law enforcement will be vigilant about pursuing wiring thieves, he said. “We’re taking these crimes seriously. Copper thieves will be caught and prosecuted.” Kettwig asked for the public’s help in notifying law enforcement if they see something out of the ordinary. “Motorists are also reminded to report suspicious activities if encountered along the state’s highway system,” Kettwig said. “People out there see more than we do. If they see an active crime in progress, they should call 911. They can also contact the local law enforcement agency.” Kettwig also reminded motorists to wear their seatbelts. He said the CHP’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign saves lives through a combined effort in education and enforcement. Also on Tuesday, a Lincoln man was arrested for allegedly stealing a bronze historic marker in Ophir, near Auburn. The sign had been taken in January. Anthony James Karas, 47, of Lincoln was arrested on charges of grand theft and possession of stolen property. The registered historical landmark sign, valued at $951, was discovered cut up and ground down, off of Fiddyment Road, east of Roseville. Michael Otten, president of the Placer County Historical Society, said the metal sign, which commemorated the historical town of Ophir, was originally dedicated Sept. 23, 1950. Other historical signs have also been the target of recent metal thefts, Otten said.