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Power outages after copper theft at Pasco County substation

11:25 AM, Aug 20, 2011   |    comments
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  • Detectives are searching for Joshua Petty and Donald Rebston in connection to stealing copper from Pasco County substations. Marylynn Maldonado is already under arrest.
  • Joshua Lee Petty
    

 

Hudson, Florida -- Deputies say a copper theft at an electric substation resulted in power outages in Pasco County.

Investigators say on August 4, at least three people stole about 200 feet of copper wire from a Withlachoochee River Electric Co-op substation, valued at about $1,196.

Photo Gallery: Hudson substation copper thefts

The theft also caused about $15,000 in equipment damage and knocked out power to thousands of customers for several hours.

That included the folks at the nearby nudist resort, Gulf Coast Resort.

"That's really annoying, how can people just... what I don't understand is how they can get in there and steal copper in the first place," said resort owner Susan Cowan.

Signs posted around the substation on East Road warn of electric shock, even death. That didn't seem to deter the suspects, who also missed warning signs that their every move was being caught on camera.

"It just boggles my mind," said Cowan.

Cowan says they were left without power for about an hour and a half, during a very busy breakfast service at the resort cafe.

"It did make for an interesting change of conversation," said Cowan.

With the air conditioning out, the resort residents were in the right place to cool down.

"All they had to do was strip down, get into the nice, cool pool and relax," laughed Cowan. "It's okay here to have nothing on, that's the good thing about being in a nudist's resort, if it gets too hot, you take it off!"

While she can joke around, she's still peeved at the copper thieves.

"Not only did it affect us as residents here, it also affected the main road, the lights, the traffic lights were out, so that created a traffic problem," said Cowan.

Deputies believe the same thieves hit another WREC substation on August 16, causing thousands more in damages.

One person has been arrested so far.  Deputies say Marylynn Maldonado, 23, drove the vehicle involved in the thefts and sold some of the copper.  She faces charges of grand theft, criminal mischief: interruption of public service, and dealing in stolen property.

Detectives are searching for two more suspects, 25-year-old Joshua Lee Petty and 29-year-old Donald Rebston.

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