Copper wire theft suspect arrested at recycling center

FRESNO, Calif.

Deputies say phone wire is the latest trend in metal theft. Brian Surabian was ready to get paid at a recycling yard, instead, he got a trip to jail.

The wires look like hair, after the colorful barriers are burned off. Investigators believe the 220 pound load in this barrel was stolen Sunday night and Monday morning.

Sergeant Michael Chapman says Brian Surabian brought his first load into the recycling center yard Thursday. Since the utility wire looked suspicious, employees called the Fresno County sheriff's office to investigate.

Friday morning after deputies arrived to check it out, ironically- Surabian, showed up too. But not to talk to them.

Sergeant Michael Chapman said, "While they were in the process of identifying the wire, the same suspect returned for a third time and was contacted with an additional lot of the wire and was subsequently arrested."

Since the beginning of this year, AT&T has reported 13 telecommunications wire thefts in the Fresno County area. Sheriff's investigators found out Surabian was using his brothers credentials to cash in.

"This person has a long history of recycling," Sergeant Michael Chapman said. "This person has a family member that is an electrical contractor and since they are working under the contracting license, they can receive payment for any recycling they do on the spot instead of having to wait three days like everyone else does."

At Surabian's Fresno County home, deputies found other evidence related to the theft. Casing that was burned off and other tools.

Detectives say the suspect lives near the area where most of the thefts have been occurring the past few months.

Sheriff's investigators say the suspect has not been cooperative. AT&T officials have reported the local losses at more than $200 thousand.

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