Cherokee County Man Pleads Guilty In Copper Theft
WICHITA, KAN. – A Cherokee County, Kan., man has pleaded guilty to pulling down an electrical pole in an effort to steal copper wire, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Jeffrey L. Blake, 39, Scammon, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of damaging an energy facility. In his plea, Blake admitted that on Sept. 7, 2011, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office received a call of damage to property belonging to Heartland Rural Electric Company. When deputies arrived at the intersection of Kansas highway 103 and NE 10th in rural Cherokee County, they discovered Blake had stolen copper wire by pulling down an electrical pole, causing a second pole to fall. The destruction of the poles and theft of wire caused a radio station whose tower was at the site to be off the air for several hours.
Blake was arrested later when officers found him being held at gunpoint by a property owner who had come home to find Blake on his property and a copper coupling missing from his propane tank. The coupling and the stolen wire were found in the bed of Blake’s pickup.
Sentencing is set for April 30. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. Grissom commended the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch for their work on the case.