Cell phone companies powerless against battery thieves

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by Rucks Russell /11 News

khou.com

Posted on March 30, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 30 at 5:53 PM

 

HOUSTON — Police believe a gang of thieves is behind a rash of cell phone tower battery thefts that have occurred throughout Houston. 

Police have arrested Jeremy Farthing, Jeffrey Constantine and Michael Wilburn. A fourth suspect named Derrick Dunn remains at large. 

Investigators fear dozens like them are still on the run.

"We’re just scratching the surface here," said Officer Oscar Gamez, of HPD’s Scrap Metal Enforcement Unit. "We’re still probably one or two steps behind the bad guys."

Authorities believe the men have stolen as many as 216 cell phone batteries in the last two to three months. 

"We’ve never seen this kind of thing before," added Gamez.

The batteries weigh about 100 pounds and cell at scrap yards for around $25 each. But cell phone companies pay thousands of dollars to repair the damage. Some towers have been hit multiple times. The batteries are needed to keep the towers functioning in the event of a power outage.

Police have warned scrap yards to be on the lookout for the stolen goods. C and D Scrap Metal in the Heights received four of them in recent weeks.

"It’s not in our advantage to purchase something that’s stolen, said Brandon Laviage, who helps manage the operation. "If it’s stolen, then we’re out of the money we paid to bring the items in."

 

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