Copper bandit convicted |

Copper bandit convicted

A man caught red-handed as he attempted to steal copper wire from a Truckee utility cabinet was found guilty last month of stealing thousands of feet of copper wire.

John Douglas Murdock now faces up to three years in state prison when he is sentenced Tuesday. Truckee police arrested Murdock in August in a sting operation at a Reno pawnshop.

On Dec. 3, a jury found Murdock guilty of one felony count of grand theft and a misdemeanor charge of possession of stolen property, said Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Greg Weston in a phone interview.

Murdock was accused of pulling more than 4,000 feet of copper wire from a conduit at the Caltrans weigh station on Interstate 80 last July, possibly causing some trucks not to be inspected, Weston said. The copper was valued at almost $6,000, he said.

In another incident later that month, Murdock was almost apprehended on Brockway Road by Truckee police while attempting another theft.

Using a red Ford Ranger pickup with a stolen license plate, Murdock pried open a junction box and attached a cable to the copper wires inside, according to Truckee Police Sgt. Dan Johnson in a previous interview.

Murdock fled from the attempted copper caper, but left behind footprints in the soft dirt that matched the shoes he wore when police arrested him in August, Weston said. The prosecutor estimated the damage and replacement of the wire at about $12,000.

The theft of copper from public utility poles and other sources has become more common as metal prices soared this summer. According to Recycle World USA, 22 types of copper can be sold to scrap metal recycling centers. Prices range from 21 cents to $3.24 per pound depending on the metal’s quality.

Once it is stolen, the origin of the wire is also hard to trace, Weston said.

The prosecutor said evidence indicated that Murdock was living, at least part time, in a rented storage space in Reno. The truck he used for the theft matched the make and color of the vehicle from which the license plate was stolen, Weston said, adding that the vehicle’s owner lived a half mile away from the storage facility.

Murdock is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8. He is currently in Nevada County jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Murdock has had a number of convictions over the past few years, Weston said.

“This is not the first time he has broken the law,” Weston said. “He has earned the trip to state prison.”

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