News and Press Releases

Men Face up to Five Years in Prison for Thefts that Caused Massive Phone Outages

April 28, 2008

KEVIN SCOTT SEXTON, 40, SAMUEL OTTON, III, 42, and AARON RYAN SWERINGEN, 33, all of Cowlitz County, Washington, were indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Seattle for Conspiracy to Commit Interstate Transportation of Stolen Goods. The men are alleged to have stolen thousands of pounds of telephone wire right off the poles, burned off the insulation and sold it in Oregon as scrap metal. All three are being detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Washington and will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Friday, May 2, at 11:00 AM.

According to the indictment and records filed at the time of their arrest, the three men were identified as connected to multiple wire thefts in a number of ways, including a cell phone one dropped in the brush at one of the sites where wires were taken. In January 2008, the men allegedly cut the wires in the early morning hours, then they would remove the plastic insulating cover. In at least one instance they left the insulation material around the apartment complex in Longview, Washington where another conspirator was living. Then they allegedly took the wire to a rock pit in Oregon where they burned the rest of the insulation off. From there they transported the wire to a scrap metal dealer in Portland where they sold it for about $3,000.

In all, the men stole more than 3500 pounds of wire to sell as scrap before they were arrested on January 29, 2008. The thefts caused major telephone disruptions in Cowlitz County in the Rocky Point area north of Kelso, the Ocean Beach Highway west of Coal Creek and the 4200 block of West Side Highway. Replacing the wire cost Qwest Communications more the $25,000, excluding labor charges.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Conspiracy to Commit Interstate Transportation of Stolen Goods is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Dion.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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