Two people accused of multiple copper thefts have been arrested by the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office and returned to Bossier authorities following a months-long investigation into the alleged spree.
Webster Detective Sgt. Tommy Kemp says the couple hit at least four cell phone tower sites, stealing the copper right out of the ground, killing service to thousands of people.
“It started around the first of the year that they began hitting cell tower sites,” Kemp said. “Their modus operandi stayed consistent throughout the burglaries.”
Kemp says they would go to a site, cut the power and then cut the copper wiring, literally pulling it out of the ground. They would then take it to Texas, where the couple is from, and sell it there.
During the investigation, detectives from both Webster and Bossier parishes learned that Charles Krupnik, 50, of Dallas, would go to the site and commit the crime, while his girlfriend, Michelle Rene Herrada, 43, also of Dallas, would go to a casino or another place and wait for him to call to come pick him up, Kemp said.
“Krupnik was basically the mastermind behind the cell towers,” he said. “He knew his way around a cell tower. He knew what he could steal. Most of the crimes occurred between midnight and 4 a.m.”
Kemp says they never hit a cell tower site in any pattern; they were all hit at random. One night, they might hit one in Webster, and then the next night, steal copper wiring from a site in Caddo Parish.
“Each cell tower had $10,000 to $17,000 worth of damage in Webster Parish,” Kemp said. “That includes the taking of the copper wire and tearing up whatever they tore up to get the copper.”
They were hitting AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile towers, Kemp said.
“The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office was instrumental in this,” he said. “Since we are in the same judicial district were having the same problems, Bossier detectives got a search warrant for the towers, and they put the pencil to the paper and could tell us that the same people that were hitting their cell towers was also known to have been at ours.”
“This is a lot of wire,” Bossier Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Lt. Bill Davis said. “They would take at least 500 feet of wire. If you take into account the damage, it’s about $40,000 in not only the theft of the copper but the damage they caused here.”
Davis says their crime spree expands beyond just Bossier and Webster parishes. He says the couple has hit cell towers in Caddo, Natchitoches and DeSoto parishes as well as Marshall County in Oklahoma.
“They are wanted in other jurisdictions as well,” Davis said. “We believe they were also in Bienville Parish, but there are no charges as of yet. We got them for four towers alone. Because the burglary was at one tower, there were two different victims. The bottom line is they were arrested on seven counts for four towers here.”
Krupnik and Herrada were arrested in the Dallas area on Bossier’s warrants in April, and then Kemp and Capt. Barry James went to Bossier and watched the interviews with the couple. Kemp says Krupnik admitted to stealing the copper, taking it across state lines and selling it.
“He didn’t know the names in Louisiana, he didn’t know the parish he was in, but he knew he had gone three parishes over from the Texas line,” Kemp said.
Kemp says once Bossier completed its investigation, Webster deputies went to the Bossier Maximum Security Facility, brought them back to Webster Parish, booked them at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center and returned them to Bossier where they remain incarcerated with a hold from Webster.
“It took some solid, bulldog detective work to find these thieves, this couple, and get this copper theft spree stopped,” Davis said.
Herrada and Krupnik were arrested in Webster on four warrants each for simple burglary and four counts each for conspiracy to commit simple burglary. Bond on each suspect totaled $450,000. In Bossier Parish, Krupnik and Herrada were arrested in April for seven counts of simple burglary each. Bond on each suspect totaled $105,000.