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Railroad sustains $5.5M in metal theft damage

Keywords: Tags  Union Pacific Railroad, copper scrap, copper theft, Nathan Laliberte

NEW YORK — Three men have been arrested in connection with a copper heist at a railyard in Pine Bluff, Ark., that caused $5.5 million in damage to 22 Union Pacific Railroad Co. engine cars, a local law enforcement official told AMM.

Railroad police called the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 25 to report that 22 of 28 engine cars at the railyard had been stripped of their copper, public information officer Major Lafayette Woods Jr. told AMM.

Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific estimated the damage at about $250,000 per engine car and indicated that the engines might be a total loss, according to a probable-cause affidavit from the sheriff’s office.

"These (copper) lines stretch from front to back, nine in each car, and could only have been accessed by someone who was very familiar with rail cars," Woods said.

John Carrington, 45, Wesley Clary, 29, and Billy Elliott, 40, were arrested at the railyard the next day by railroad police and charged with multiple crimes, including breaking and entering and theft of property. Bond was set at $50,000 for Carrington and Clary and $25,000 for Elliott.

"One of the suspects alleged that most of the stolen copper was sold in Texas," Woods said. "Either way, we hope to continue an investigation into the individuals who are responsible for buying this stolen copper. We anticipate that several other individuals may be charged in the near future."

Woods said the incident could be the biggest metal theft in Arkansas history. "They stole so much copper that one of the suspects told us he was hoping to retire on the job," he said. "Now he is in jail."

A Union Pacific spokeswoman said the railroad is conducting "a thorough investigation."

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