Cell tower burglary suspect arrested
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 8:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 8:57 a.m.
The Bradford County Sheriff's Office has arrested a man that investigators described as the industry insider in recent burglaries at cell phone towers.
Thomas Britton, 34, of New Jersey, was charged with theft from a communications provider and criminal mischief. Sheriff's Detective Johnny Pons worked with confidential informants to find and arrest Britton at a Lawtey convenience store Monday evening shortly after Britton returned to the area from New Jersey.
Sheriff's Captain Brad Smith said Britton apparently worked as a subcontractor at several cell phone tower sites and knew which items were worth stealing to resell. Investigators said the motive for the thefts appeared to be financial and that the three men involved with friends. The case began when deputies got a tip that some of the materials believed to have been taken from the tower were being transported to an area scrap dealer.
Smith said the items taken were relatively minor in terms of cost, but were part of the system to protect towers from lightning strikes. Without the equipment, Smith said, a lightning strike could disable the tower and interrupt cell phone service to a wide area.
The first person arrested in early August was identified as James Michael Harper, 27, of Starke. He was charged with grand theft, burglary, burglary that impaired a utility, dealing in stolen property and criminal mischief involving a utility.
The second man arrested was identified as John J. Thornton, 28, of Starke who was charged with grand theft, larceny and criminal mischief. Smith said Thornton likely served as the driver in the burglary.
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