Forty-year-old Kelli Makin and Korinne Makin Cobbley, 38, were arrested in Orem on several charges, including burglary, theft and possession of burglary tools, The Deseret News reports.
Police found the two women after a city inspector reported seeing two women wandering around the partially completed Midtown Village development. Officers spotted one female walking out of a vacant building carrying tools that could be used to cut copper tubing and fittings, according to The Deseret News. The other was found in a car near an opening cut in the fence that surrounded the condominium development.
Copper theft from construction sites is an ongoing issue, especially with the commodity price of copper peaking and world copper mines having difficulty keeping up with demand. This has led to an increase in the price of finished copper pipe, and made it much more attractive to those looking for a quick dollar.
Copper, the police in the report note, is easy to sell, and difficult to trace. The women arrested apparently have been operating throughout Salt Lake and Utah counties. Their car was found with large quantities of copper pipe in the trunk and back seat.
In addition to the high price of copper due to world demand, there is a large amount of vacant housing stock, much like this development, where construction stopped abruptly due to the bank and housing crises. These large projects, with large numbers of vacant buildings abandoned midway through construction make temping targets for theft and property crimes.
Do the Crime…How Much Time?
In Utah, this type of theft or burglary is a felony. The charge could be:
- Second Degree: carrying penalties of up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine
- Third Degree: penalties of up to five years and up to a $5,000 fine
The threshold definition for a second-degree felony in this case would include residential burglary, or theft of property worth $5,000 or more. A third-degree felony includes burglary of non-dwelling and theft more than $1,000 but less than $5,000.
The charge could hinge on the value of the copper stolen if it was worth more than $5,000. If it was less than $5,000, the prosecutor could still attempt to charge the burglary as a second-degree felony because it was a residential burglary. This charge may be open to challenge, since these condominiums were unfinished and apparently fenced off.
If the police investigation shows the women have been doing this type of burglary on a large scale, it is possible the prosecutors would try for the higher charge.
These are serious charges and anyone facing theft, robbery or burglary charges needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights and develop their defense strategy.