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Sheriff#8217;s Office makes arrest in AEP break-ins

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — It happened more than once recently: American Electric Power employees arrived at the company’s facilities to find thieves has gotten there before they did, and made off with expensive equipment.

Earlier this month, Lawrence County authorities arrested a man they said is responsible for at least some of those crimes.

Gary Smith, 29, who does not list an address on Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office reports, is charged with two counts each of breaking and entering and theft.

On Oct. 28, AEP workers found 1,500 feet of copper wire had been taken from its Hamilton substation. Another 100-150 feet of copper ground wire was taken on Oct. 28 from that same location. On Oct. 31, thieves took $7,000 in ground cables and did $1,200 damage breaking into the facility.

There was a break-in at an AEP facility in Coal Grove as well.

Authorities followed leads and determined at least some of the stolen goods had been taken to West End Recycling in Huntington, W.Va., and exchanged for money. In the end, their search allegedly led them to Smith.

“He’s lucky to be alive,” Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Detective Aaron Bollinger said. “He told us in one particular theft in Coal Grove, he was burned when he cut into the ground wire.”

Bollinger said Smith admitted to having a drug problem and the thefts were a way to get money to buy drugs.

Smith was taken to the Lawrence County Jail.