The hardhats at the Homestead manhole were men at work on a $30,000 theft, cops say


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What looked like workmen doing late night repairs at an Old Dixie Highway manhole Sunday weren’t doing repairs for AT&T, Homestead police say, but rather stealing from AT&T.

Cops say they found 50 pieces of copper wire wrapped in black tubing, which they valued at $10,000 if sold legally, but $30,000 if the copper was sold on the black market.

The quintet arrested around 12:40 a.m. Sunday were 55-year-old South Miami-Dade resident Ivan Perez Garcia; West Miami-Dade’s Yordan Ramirez, 41; Miami’s Francisco Gutierrez, 50; and Hialeah’s Ermes Gonzalez-Pando, 43, and Eric Gonzalez-Pando, 24. All were charged with theft of copper from a utility or community service provider causing damage and criminal mischief.

Ramirez, who was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon, was out on $15,000 bond after being busted on the same charges in August.

At the hole, around midnight

Homestead police say a previous copper wire theft told them how the operation worked:

The thieves would cut the copper wire, then cap it to conceal any damage from AT&T. After waiting a few days to make sure their masking trick worked, they would show up in full workman gear, including construction hats and traffic vests, with trucks and equipment for yanking out the wiring.

Sunday, around midnight in the 1300 block of Old Dixie Highway, a Homestead officer saw five trucks that looked like the trucks suspected to be involved in the wire thefts. He saw a man in a hardhat in the manhole taking wiring out of the hole, assisted by four similarly dressed men.

A phone call to an AT&T investigator confirmed no crews were scheduled to work in the area.

The arrest reports say the copper sat in a trailer being pulled by a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 driven by Perez-Garcia. Perez-Garcia doesn’t work for AT&T. Police say he claimed to be hired to drive the truck, but couldn’t tell them the company who hired him.

About a half mile away, Eric Gonzalez-Pando claimed similar amnesia after saying he was hired a week ago to drive a white GMC truck and direct traffic. He also couldn’t tell them his agreed upon hourly rate.

The others claimed nothing except their Miranda rights to remain silent. Police say Ramirez had a Smith & Wesson .380-caliber gun on him that been reported lost by Hialeah police on Dec. 20 as well as a black .357 revolver.

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