EL CAJON (CNS) - Two East County residents were jailed Wednesday in connection with a three-month series of copper thefts that cost Lakeside-area construction companies more than half a million dollars.
Sheriff's personnel arrested Ronald Hyde, 50, and Christine Louise Vandecar, 47, during a traffic stop at Third and East Main streets in El Cajon about 5:30 a.m., Deputy Karl Miller said.
The jobless suspects had been under surveillance for weeks in the metal-theft spree, which began in early October and continued until this week, Miller said.
"The (thieves) in the cases would use the cover of darkness and, in many cases, bad weather to sneak onto the properties to cut out heavy-gauge copper wire from heavy equipment and machinery," he said. "Damage to the property, machinery and equipment would often render it unusable, causing substantial monetary loss to the affected businesses."
In all, seven companies along the State Route 67 corridor north of Willow Road fell victim to the bandits, Miller said.
At the time of the suspects' arrests, Vandecar's station wagon allegedly was full of several hundred pounds of copper cable, both stuffed in military-style duffel bags and lying in plain view on the back seat of the vehicle, according to Miller.
Vandecar is suspected of serving as Hyde's driver during the crimes. She also allegedly would take Hyde, a friend and fellow El Cajon resident, around to recycling centers to turn in the copper for cash.
Employees at those scrap collection facilities helped detectives identify the suspects, based on identifying numbers on the sheathing of the stolen cable.
Including lost earnings and equipment damage, the victims are believed to have suffered combined losses in excess of $500,000, Miller said.
Hyde was booked on 15 counts of grand theft and conspiracy. Vandecar was jailed on suspicion of conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine for sale.
More arrests in the case may be forthcoming, Miller said.
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