Two Franklin County residents were arrested Friday on federal charges of removing aluminum braces from railroad cars.

Jacob Brewer, 28, Beaufort, and Michelle Phipps, 27, Washington, were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 19 on one felony count each of violence against railroad carriers. They appeared in federal court Friday morning.

According to the federal indictment, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 22, Brewer and Phipps disabled railroad on-track equipment, by removing aluminum stabilizing braces from railroad freight cars. The braces are designed to keep the freight cars from derailing when fully loaded and moving.

The railroad freight cars are owned by Ameren UE and were used to transport coal from the Wyoming to Missouri.

If convicted, Brewer and Phipps face up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Restitution to the victim is mandatory. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.

This case was investigated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant U. S. Attorney Gil Sison is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.