Men charged with stealing copper from cell phone tower

- The Hardee County Sheriff's Office arrested three cellular solutions employees out of Pompano Beach; one of whom admitted to stealing thousands of feet of coaxial cable from a cell tower in order to sell the copper wire inside.

Dustin Graham, 27, of Kettering, OH, Daniel Meza, 23, of Houston, TX, and Dallas Sawyer, 32, of Miramar, FL, were all charged with grand theft, trespassing and burglary.

Wednesday afternoon, a legitimate cell tower technician arrived to a tower on Kelly Roberts Road owned by American Tower Inc., for routine maintenance.

The technician reportedly saw one guy cutting the cable into small pieces while the other two were atop the tower feeding the cable down to him.

Graham, Meza and Sawyer then handed the technician a bogus work order that said they were to remove all of the service equipment from the tower, according to Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier.

"To [the technician], it wasn't industry standard, so he called law enforcement," he said.

Once arrested, detectives questioned the crew, and one of them cracked.

"One particular one broke down and said, 'We are here to steal it, and we're selling it for scrap and dividing the money,'" Sheriff Lanier said.

The crew was about three hours outside of their coverage area, investigators said, working a heist on their day off and using a company vehicle and trailer.

"There's evidence in the vehicle that makes us believe that there's possible other sites that they have done this to," Sheriff Lanier said.

Hardee investigators are reaching out to other jurisdictions, statewide, to see if they are working similar cases.

In all, officials estimate the crew cut down 3,600 feet of communications cable and loaded it onto a trailer. There's still 2,500 feet of defunct cable on the tower that needs to come down.

American Tower Inc. is now checking all of their Florida towers to see if others may be missing a large amount of coaxial cable.

Nextel, T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, Verizon, and Metro PCS all lease space on the tower. None of their connectivity was affected, but in all the companies - including the tower owner - estimate $98,000 in copper theft and damage.

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