Officials with AT&T were scheduled to attend Tuesday's meeting of the Franklin County commission to recognize the sheriff's office for its work in catching four suspects accused of stealing a large amount of telephone cable and selling the copper wire.

The four St. Clair area men were arrested last Friday and charged with felony stealing and first-degree property damage. They were being held in jail on $35,000 cash-only bonds.

In a prepared statement, AT&T officials noted that the theft of utility copper is a significant issue.  Aside from the costs to the company for the loss of material and cost of repairs, utility copper thefts often disrupt service to AT&T’s customers, including their access to emergency services.

 “AT&T takes this matter very seriously. These are not just attacks against our network, they are attacks on the businesses and people living in this community who are left isolated and unable to seek help or assistance during emergencies,” said John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri. “We view these as crimes against the entire community, and we are cooperating with law enforcement to make sure those responsible for this illegal activity are prosecuted.”

Earlier Story

Four men from the St.Clair area were arrested Friday and later charged with stealing large amounts of telephone cable and selling the copper wire, authorities said. 

Franklin County deputies have been investigating the series of cable thefts over the last several months. AT&T has reported cable, valued at over $140,000, being stolen from the Gray Summit, Union, St. Clair, Lonedell, Anaconda and Luebbering areas in Franklin County. 

On Friday, deputies received information that led them to a home in the 1300 block of High Acres Drive near St. Clair where they found two men burning cable to harvest the copper wire, Sheriff Gary Toelke said. They were arrested after fleeing into the home.

That investigation led deputies to three other residences in the St. Clair area and the arrests of two more suspects. 

Charged with felony stealing in the investigation are Jeffrey E. Brown, 32, Bryan E. Osborn, 23, Kyle E. Pelton, 39, and Walter J. Taylor, 32,  all of St. Clair. They were being held on $35,000 cash-only bonds. 

See the Wednesday Missourian for more details.