A Lee man has been sentenced to up to four years in state prison in connection with the theft of specially made copper wire stolen from a town of Florida wind farm last year.
Eli Waters, 34, was among nine defendants charged with the theft and sale of copper wire stolen from Iberdrola Renewables, which owns and operates a wind farm on Bakke Mountain.
“They were like vultures on a carcass. They returned again and again and again,” said Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano.
The thieves tunneled under a security fence and made off with a total of $38,000 worth of the special copper wire made specifically for wind turbines, then sold the semi-precious metal to various scrap yards between October and November of 2013, police said.
According to the prosecutor, Waters and Gina Arnold, 33, were part of one of two groups involved in the thefts.
Investigators later discovered evidence of the crimes in a city motel room, including the stripped outer covering of the wire and tools used to do the job along with glassine envelopes with heroin residue, the prosecutor said.
Waters pleaded guilty to 17 charges, including multiple counts of receiving stolen property over $250 and malicious destruction of property.
Yorlano said Waters received more than $15,000, which he split with three other people for close to 7,000 pounds of the wire. The company was out more than $30,000 from the thefts that insurance wouldn’t cover and the defendants were unable to pay back.
The defendant has served jail time in the past, and with these charges had “graduated to state prison,” said the prosecutor, who called the crimes “drug fueled.”
Waters’ attorney, Edmond St. John IV, said the sentence the DA’s Office was asking for exceeded the state guidelines. He denied the crimes were drug fueled, but conceded there was an underlying substance abuse issue with his client. He asked for a two-year jail sentence with drug rehabilitation.
Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Waters to at least two and no more than four years in state prison. He said he hoped the sentence would have a “sobering effect” on the defendant.
Arnold pleaded guilty to eight charges. The judge sentenced her to serve six months of an 18-month sentence at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction with the rest of the time suspended for two years. During that time she will be on probation and must remain drug free with random testing and stay away from the wind farm. The sentence was in line with a joint recommendation between the DA’s Office and her attorney, Richard D. LeBlanc.
Arnold said she didn’t initially know the wire had been stolen.
A single count of receiving stolen property over $250 was dismissed by the DA’s Office.
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