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$150,000 attempted theft at Luminant Sandow power plant; search for suspects still on

Posted at 4:41 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 17:41:05-04

ROCKDALE, TX — A felony theft occurred at the Luminant Sandow power plant site in Rockdale over the weekend, and police believe they’re closing in on the culprits.

The longstanding plant, located in Rockdale adjacent to Alcoa’s retired smelter and coal mine, hasn’t seen a lot of activity since it was shut down around 2018, as reported by the Texas Tribune. Saturday night, however, something stirred back at this quiet campus.

As unknown individual or individuals attempted to make off with approximately $150,000 in copper wire.

"The damage they caused was upwards of $150,000," stated interim Milam County Sheriff Mike Clore. "If we are able to catch them, it’s going to be a second-degree felony criminal mischief at this point... They left some evidence … but they weren’t able to get away with the goods.”

Clore believes, the offender or offenders, had broken into the plant Saturday night, collected the wire, and abandoned their loot once a security guard startled them. They returned to the site to retrieve the wire once more on Sunday morning but were again startled by a guard. They then abandoned their vehicle, a U-Haul van, in the parking lot of a Sonic restaurant.

Clore pointed out, that it’s not always large institutions' power plants that are victims of copper-related theft. Sometimes, offenders steal copper from churches, small businesses, or individual family homes.

"They would take it to a place that recycles it – that would be our first start [in the investigation]," Clore explained. "Then you would look into some of the known people we've had in the past. Some of these people we’ve had in the past, we’ll deal with them and then won’t hear from them for a while. They’ll go to jail, get out, and then when they want easy money, they’ll start back up.”

According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] report conducted in 2008, copper theft can have some serious consequences. It’s caused widespread power outages, agricultural losses, and the dysfunction of emergency alert equipment. Though Luminant plant operations have been closed, Sheriff Clore said, he still hopes to close this case as well.

Luminant offered this statement from their corporate office about the theft: “The Sandow power plant has been retired since 2018 and is currently going through a decommissioning process. Therefore, there was no impact on operations due to the burglary. We appreciate the quick response from the sheriff’s office and have increased security at the plant site for the foreseeable future.”

Investigators with the Milam County Sheriff’s Office believe they’ve narrowed down some suspects for this crime. But, Clore urges that anyone with additional information on the incident contact the sheriff’s office, or submit an anonymous tip to Milam County Crime Stoppers by visiting right here.