Scrap yard owner talks about copper theft arrest

A copper thief remains behind bars after sheriff’s deputies catch him with thousands of dollars worth of copper. 

Detectives say Randall Thomas made more than $20,000.00 dollars selling stolen copper from the on and off ramps of the turnpike and the overpass near I-95 and Lake Ida Road.

Investigators say Thomas sold the metal at We Buy Scraps, a scrap yard located on S. Military Trail in Lake Worth.

The owner, Eric Hellems, said he had no idea the copper, Thomas and his accomplice, Louis Simon, were bringing in, was stolen.

“They’ve been coming for quite a long time with the same material, they had a great back story as to where the material came from, the electrical company that they worked for,” said Hellems.

Hellems said metal brought in is unidentifiable, but because scrap metal is a big business, Hellems works closely with the sheriff’s office who keeps an eye out for copper thieves.

“They email me pictures, names, persons of interest, tag numbers and I can run them directly in my system,” said Hellems.

Technology helped law enforcement keep track of Thomas’s every move.

Detectives put a tracking device on his car, which allowed them to see his travel pattern. They found he went to several places, including the Turnpike and I-95, where he’s accused of stealing the copper from traffic cameras.

Law enforcement begin to track Thomas's van, starting at the end of February and through the first week of March.

Investigators recorded him making 14 stops at places where he's accused of stealing copper and then dumping it at an empty field to hide it.

State attorney Dave Aronberg said because these types of devices are becoming more common, the law is evolving.

But law enforcement have to be cautious using the devices because the warrant can only be used to get details for specific places.


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