Agents round up 17 as suspects in massive cable theft ring

Investigators detained 17 persons Thursday in what they said was an organized group that stole copper telephone wire and sold it to a recycling company for export.

One of those detained was a man with the last name of Rojas who was identified by agents as the recycling firm manager.

Agents made raids at the Barrio Cristo Rey installation of Ticoexporta S.A., which is associated with Grupo Rosure, a recycling firm. Also raided was a Grupo Rosure facility in Cartago and the company’s storage facilities in Dos Ríos. Many homes also were the scene of arrests.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said later that it lost 2 billion colons in 2011 replacing stolen copper cables. That is about $4 million. Investigators attributed thefts of up to 100 million colons or $200,000 to the individuals detained Thursday. Agents also raided a home in Patarrá, Desamparados, where they said they found bags of copper cable.

The arrests were coordinated by the organized crime task force. A hearing is planned for today in the courts in Pococí, said the Poder Judicial.

Agents said the group operated mainly in Limón, Guápiles and San José. The stolen cable was taken to San José for eventual export, they said.

Clean copper from cables can fetch between 1,500 and 3,200 colons, about $3 to $6. Of course, the replacement cost to the telephone company is much higher, not counting the discomfort to the customers who have had their phone lines stolen.

The Poder Judicial said that this was the first time that they encountered an organized gang in the cable theft business. Usually the suspects are one or several individuals.

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