Vandals Self-Incriminate Themselves through Social Media

Two vandals were arrested after they self-incriminated themselves through a social media post.

Bragging leads to arrest

Photo by Ryan Adams

23 year old Kevin Hayes and 20 year old Thomas Anderson were arrested after someone saw a Snapchat video by Hayes showing the two individuals inside a Spanish Fork church building that had been recently broken into and vandalized. In the video the two could be heard bragging about what they had done, thus self-incriminating themselves. The person viewing the snap video saved it and alerted authorities. The duo was arrested for vandalism related charges.

Vandalism

The two young men were each charged with burglary for breaking into the LDS church as well as criminal mischief for the vandalism that took place once they gained access to the building. Utah Code 76-6-106 states: “A person commits criminal mischief if the person . . . intentionally damages, defaces, or destroys the property of another.” The penalties for vandalism depend on the value of the property that is damaged. Utah Code 76-6-106 goes on to explain . . . violation of this section is a:

(i) Second degree felony if the actor’s conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $5,000 in value;

(ii) Third degree felony if the . . . pecuniary loss [is]equal to or in excess of $1,500 but is less than $5,000 in value;

(iii) Class A misdemeanor if the . . . pecuniary loss [is] equal to or in excess of $500 but is less than $1,500 in value; and

(iv) Class B misdemeanor if the . . . pecuniary loss [is] less than $500 in value.”

Authorities estimate Hayes and Anderson caused around $10,000 in damage, increasing both of their criminal mischief charges to the max penalty of second degree felonies carrying a possible prison term of one to 15 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine.

Shooting a Substation Transformer is a Federal Offense

A Utah man who chose to fire shots at a substation transformer has been indicted on a federal offense of destruction of an energy facility.

Injudicious choice of a target

Photo by: starmanseries

Photo by: starmanseries

57 year old Stephen Plato McRae of Escalante, Utah is charged with a federal offense of firing shots at the Garkane Energy Cooperative’s Buckskin substation transformer which left a transformer severely damaged and large portions of Kane and Garfield Counties without power for eight hours. According to the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Utah, on September 25th 2016 a witness to the investigation of the transformer shooting led authorities to a firearm belonging to McRae which was believed to have been used in the destruction of the substation transformer.

Up to 32 years and $750,000 for federal offense

18 U.S. Code § 1366 states “Whoever knowingly and willfully damages or attempts or conspires to damage the property of an energy facility in an amount that in fact exceeds or would if the attempted offense had been completed, or if the object of the conspiracy had been achieved, have exceeded $100,000, or damages or attempts or conspires to damage the property of an energy facility in any amount and causes or attempts or conspires to cause a significant interruption or impairment of a function of an energy facility, shall be punishable by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.” Beyond the possibility of 20 years in federal prison, McRae is also facing 10 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm and two years for possession of a controlled substance. Along with a possible combined prison sentence of 32 years, McRae also faces fines totaling up to $750,000.

Federal offense vs state offense

Federal Offense = Federal Prison

Photo by: Aaron Bauer

Destruction of an energy facility which is defined by 18 U.S. Code § 1366 as “a facility that is involved in the production, storage, transmission, or distribution of electricity, fuel, or another form or source of energy, or research, development, or demonstration facilities relating thereto, regardless of whether such facility is still under construction or is otherwise not functioning (. . . )” is considered a federal offense and those found guilty will face time in federal prisons located outside the state of Utah. Although shooting at a transformer was obviously a foolish choice, it may be difficult distinguishing what constitutes a federal crime and what is considered by the State of Utah to be criminal mischief. Utah Code 76-6-106 states: “A person commits criminal mischief if the person ( . . . )recklessly causes or threatens a substantial interruption or impairment of any critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure can involve many systems including “any public utility service, including the power, energy, and water supply systems”. Anyone facing state or federal charges is encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Copper Theft in Utah

Gold or silver jewelry are common items of theft in Utah, but so are pipes, cables, and wires made of copper.

From hobby to crime

Photo by: Sam-Cat

Photo by: Sam-Cat

Beyond the precious metals used for jewelry, other metals such as copper also have a high value. As people became aware of this, they began searching for copper to turn around and sell for profit. Rummaging through trash cans and salvage yards, stripping wires hoping to reveal copper wiring turned into a time consuming yet financially rewarding hobby for many people. Unfortunately, many individuals were so desperate for cash they began stripping wires that were still being used.

Supply and demand

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, repairs and replacements from copper theft costs the U.S. nearly a billion dollars a year. Copper theft has been an ongoing problem for over a decade, with the instances of copper theft rising and falling right along with the price of raw copper. The higher the price for copper, the more thefts tend to accompany. Although there was a definite decrease in instances of copper theft after the drop in copper prices in 2009, copper theft remains a problem today.

More than just theft

The FBI issued a report on copper thefts claiming “copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical sub-stations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes for lucrative profits. The theft of copper from these targets disrupts the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, and security and emergency services and presents a risk to both public safety and national security.” Utah is well aware of these infrastructure threats. Back in 2006, over 6 miles of copper was pulled from the ground going to light poles along I-15 in Salt Lake City. As the lights went out, so did half a million dollars of copper wiring.

Illegal and dangerous

Photo by:  Frédéric BISSON

Photo by:
Frédéric BISSON

Copper theft could land the thief with jail time from charges such as theft, burglary, criminal mischief. More serious to criminal charges is the threat to their life. Taking wires that are connected to electrical equipment is extremely dangerous, and if an electrical shock doesn’t kill the person touching the live wires, it will do some irreparable damage. The risk of criminal charges and injury isn’t worth the price of copper. Leave it connected.