Alleged copper-stealing ring smashed after Carrollton thefts

A fifth alleged member of a copper-stealing ring was arraigned Friday before a U.S. magistrate judge in Atlanta on federal charges stemming from the theft of nearly a half-million dollars worth of wire from a Carrollton company.

Jacinto Diaz, also known as Pachi Diaz, 45 of Miami, was ordered held for trial, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office in Atlanta.

Diaz is one of five men accused of stealing from Southwire Co. He was arrested by U.S. Customs agents on May 26 as he tried to cross from Hidalgo, Texas, into Mexico.

The other suspects are Henry Diaz, 26, of Miami; Mario Baras Gonzalez, 47, of Miami Beach, Fla.; and Jesus Ramirez, 26, of Homestead, Fla., who were previously arraigned; and Anthony Foubelo, 31, of Miami, who has pleaded guilty.

The scheme far exceeds recent reports of thefts of air conditioning units for their copper from churches, schools, businesses and other locations around the metro area.

“Copper is disappearing at an alarming rate as its value has increased," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. "People in our communities have heard of many smaller thefts, but these charges allege that this scheme involved about a half-million dollars worth of copper."

According to an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury for the Northern District of Georgia, starting in late April 2010, members of the ring posed as truck drivers working for a legitimate shipping company to pick up about 129,000 pounds of copper worth $465,000 to deliver to destinations in Indiana.

The indictment also accuses the defendants of thefts of copper and other items in Texas, New York, Florida and South Carolina between March and September 2010.

Each defendant is charged with one count each of conspiracy and of transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce. Foubelo pleaded guilty to both counts on April 21. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 8 before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr.

The defendants face sentences of up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 10 years on the transportation of stolen goods charge, as well as fines of up to $250,000.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Carrollton Police Department.