Copper theft has become a widespread problem in the region, with at least nine incidents reported in the month of June alone. On Thursday, police arrested a suspect they believe committed several thefts at the old New Mexico Rehabilitation Center, 31 Gail Harris St.
Chad Charney, 32, was charged with burglary in connection with the thefts. According to the criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court on June 18, the investigating officer, detective Robert Scribner, was at a local recycling center when the owner brought out some pieces of copper. Each piece was of a size and marked in a way that indicated they may have come from the old rehab center.
The court records state that an officer went to the Gail Harris Street location and matched the copper pipe to the pipe in the facility. In addition, an employee at the old rehabilitation building said that he was checking the building when he observed a white male coming out of the crawl space. The employee believed he recognized the man.
Case documents report research of other area recycling centers revealed that Charney and people associated with him sold 415 pounds of copper.
When Charney was picked up for an interview, he told police he had been selling copper, but denied removing copper from the old rehabilitation center. He said that the copper items were gifts from the members of the community. Charney said he had others take the copper in to various recycling centers for sale because he did not have identification.
A search of Charney’s residence netted nine pieces of copper pipe. When officials executed a second search warrant for a second residence, they found several bags full of copper scrap and miscellaneous pipe fittings. During the initial interview, Charney stated he did not know how the copper got into either residence.
Charney is being held at the Chaves County Detention Center on a $5,000 cash or surety bond.