Police have busted an organised crime syndicate that allegedly stole $780,000 worth of copper from telco pits, causing internet and power outages.
Eleven people have been arrested as part of a police investigation into 50 large-scale copper thefts that occurred in Melbourne’s north over the first six months of the year.
It’s alleged the offenders used portable power tools to cut through telco pits housed in residential streets and stole large quantities of copper.
The damage reportedly caused disruptions to internet and power and significant distress to impacted residents, police said.
On June 29, police executed search warrants at multiple properties and seized about $95,000 worth of stolen copper.
Six people were arrested during this search blitz, including a 43-year-old man who was charged with the criminal damage of $30,000 to telecommunication footpath pits and the theft of $215,000 worth of copper cabling.
Detective Inspector Patrick Watkinson said this kind of theft “affects us all”, as damage to critical infrastructure can impact telecommunication networks, public transport signalling and power supply.
“We hope this sends a clear message to second-hand dealers that are tempted by the lure of quick money,” he said.
A scrap metal business in Reservoir has also been forced to shut down for two years after it allegedly received $260,000 in stolen goods.
The 58-year-old owner was charged with 10 counts each of handling stolen goods, recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime and two counts of possessing property suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
He was also charged with paying for scrap metal in cash and failing to keep prescribed records.
He was bailed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on December 1.
Anyone who has information about criminal activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
Originally published as Police bust organised crime syndicate allegedly behind $780k copper theft