MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Twelve people are under arrest in connection to underground copper thefts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The arrests were announced Tuesday afternoon by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
“You would never suspect they were thieves dressed in legitimate clothing,” she said.
Many of those arrested worked for a Florida Power and Light subcontractor in charge of installing backup power lines.
Investigators say they would do the installation work during the day and return at night to strip it from the ground.
The group is accused of stealing more than $500,000 worth of underground copper cables from South Florida to Central Florida.
The thefts are not only considered a criminal act by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). They are also considered a danger to the community.
“These thefts posed a substantial threat to the community by making critical electric and communications infrastructure vulnerable to failure with at least one theft damaging adjacent fiber optic cables carrying 911 communications,” said FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Troy Walker.
Agents said the members of the group would sell the copper to metal recycling facilities across Miami-Dade.
“These thieves aimed to put dollars in their pockets by severing those lines of electrical power that keep the pulse of our community beating,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “They aimed to cut the security of Miami, Miami Beach and all of Miami-Dade County.
FDLE Officials said the arrests are a result of an investigation that began in October 2014 after a request from Florida Power and Light regarding the theft and destruction of underground cables.
Investigators found while most of the thefts happened in Miami-Dade, thefts also happened in Broward and Volusia Counties.
Following the invetsigation, FDLE agents arrested Giovany Rodolfo Regidor, 36; Carlos H. Aragon, 33; Renier Rolando Ulloa-Castillo, 42; Yoandys Jose Diaz Zamora, 39; Leonardo Perez, 59; Pedro Omar Alfonso, 44; Ubaldo Medina Sr., 46; Marion Mauricio Lezama, 42; Ramon Herrara, 59; Joan Barrios Cruz, 49; Yandy Cruz, 24; and Iraldo Leon, 49, all from the South Florida area.
All of the suspects were booked into the Turner Gilford Knight Correctional Facility.