Final conspirator in APG copper thefts gets probation, home detention

The final conspirator in the theft of large amounts of copper wire from Aberdeen Proving Ground was sentenced last week in Federal District Court in Baltimore.

Steven Coale, 34, of North East, was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, including eight months to be spent on home detention, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore.

During the Feb. 21 sentencing, Coale was also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge William D. Quarles Jr. to forfeit $56,000 he received from the theft scheme.

Coale and two others pleaded guilty last summer to federal conspiracy charges in connection with the theft of more than $87,000 worth of copper wire from buildings and underground conduits at the Edgewood Area of APG, according to previous reports of the case. The trio was indicted in June 2012.

According to the plea agreement Coale signed in August, he admitted to conspiring with fellow APG electricians Timothy Bittner, of Bel Air, and Robert Reynolds, of Felton, Pa., to steal the wire and sell it to metal recyclers, over a period from March through November 2011.

Initially, more than five tons of underground wire was stolen from the Eagle Point area of the post and sold to recyclers for $48,000, according to prosecutors. More was stolen later from two buildings and three generators in the same area.

The plea agreement states that Coale falsely reported his work time to disguise his activities. The agreement states that the three men transported the stolen wire in their government vehicles to an APG parking lot, where they transferred it to their personal vehicles and then took it to their homes to strip off the plastic insulation by hand to make the wire more valuable on the recycling market. The conspirators also leased storage space in Edgewood and eventually acquired a machine to strip the insulation.

The plea agreement also states that Coale had sent a text message to Reynolds in August 2011 saying he no longer wished to participate in the theft scheme; however, he did allow the other two to use his personal truck to transport some of the stolen wire from a storage facility they rented to the recyclers. As a result, Coale, the plea agreement states, was still responsible for the theft of approximately 126 pounds of wire sold to a recycler in October 2011 for $39,000.

Bittner was sentenced Jan. 31 to three years of supervised probation, including 12 months of home detention, and was ordered to pay $33,711 in restitution for the cost of repairs to the buildings where the cooper was stolen.

Reynolds was sentenced Jan. 30 to three years of supervised probation, including eight months of home detention, and also ordered to pay $33,771 in restitution.

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