MTA Claims Theft of Valuable Copper Wire in Nassau County
Investigation & Possible Charges for the Crime
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority recently concluded an investigation
in which it looked into alleged copper thefts by a number of people, including
employees of the Long Island Rail Road, or LIRR. All but two of the 17
people who were arrested for theft worked for the railroad. The workers
have been suspended without pay for the time being.
The Alleged Thefts
Copper has increasingly been a target for thieves, as this metal has risen
in value over the past few years. A scheme to steal copper wire from the
transit authority was supposedly going on for about three years. The MTA’s
inspector general received a tip last year that workers were taking metal
from a rail yard and selling it to a scrap metal company.
Allegedly, the workers took a variety of materials, including both new
spools of copper wire and partially used spools. Some of what they took,
said officials, was discarded pieces of wire that the railroad company
planned to sell as scrap.
The accused workers supposedly used trucks that belonged to the MTA, while
they were on the job, to move the copper off site to their own vehicles.
Scrap metal companies paid them as much as $250,000 over the course of
their activities, said officials. Pricing varied for the wire depending
on its quality and whether it still had a protective plastic coating or
the coating had been stripped off.
Other Illicit Activities
Other recent allegations of criminal activity by LIRR workers are not helpful
for the alleged perpetrators. Not long ago, a number of retired LIRR workers
supposedly made false disability claims in an attempt to collect federal
benefits. The disability pensions they filed for would have cost the Railroad
Retirement Board over $1 billion. In announcing the copper theft arrests,
the railroad’s president noted wryly that she had been spending
far too much time talking with the MTA’s inspector general about
The public view of the MTA has not been positive lately, considering the
disruptions caused by weather events and the agency’s latest decision
to raise fares. The
alleged copper thefts amount to stealing from everyone who uses the transit system, remarked
a Nassau County prosecutor.
When a person is accused of theft, several strategies can be used to defend
against the charge. Attorneys representing the people who were arrested
are publicly arguing that the MTA had little use for much of the material
that was supposedly stolen. This approach is a variation on a claim of
right defense. If people accused of stealing property can establish that
they thought they had a valid claim to it, no theft occurred.
defense against a charge of theft has to do with the defendant’s mental
state is intoxication, which would make the person not capable of forming
an intent to steal.
It is also a valid defense if a person was lured into committing the theft,
trapping the person into criminal activity in order to prosecute the crime.
And a defendant can also present a more sympathetic picture if the defendant
returned the items that were supposedly stolen. In fact, if the defendant
can convince the jury that the intent all along was just to borrow the
property and not take it from its owner, the defendant might be found
A capable defense attorney is invaluable for anyone who has been charged
with theft. The burden is on the prosecution to prove that a defendant
is guilty, and an experienced attorney will know the right strategies
to use to protect the defendant’s rights.