Man Arrested in Connection to CenturyLink Thefts

Man Arrested in Connection to CenturyLink Thefts

By Jake Wasikowski. CREATED Feb 15, 2013

Omaha, NE -- A big break in a string of copper thefts.  Someone has been stealing copper from CenturyLink phone and internet boxes, but police say the copper bandit's luck has run out.

CenturyLink customers who may have noticed that their phone or internet service was out recently may have had their service literally stolen from them.  Thieves have been breaking into the discreet boxes, and pulling out all the cabling to get at the copper.

"Whoever was doing it was, in some cases, driving over them to gain access to them or prying them open.  You have to do damage to the box pretty well to get in that big of a communications box," said Karl Bieber, a Spokesperson for CenturyLink.

In the last 2 months, CenturyLink says about 30 boxes have been broken into and stripped of the copper wiring throughout the metro area.  It's caused thousands of dollars in damage and replacement costs.

Police have arrested 47-year-old Calen Stearns for one count of Felony Criminal Mischief and one count of Attempt of a Felony.  A search warrant says residents and police caught him twice in January, cutting wire and loading metal items near CenturyLink telephone junction boxes in North Omaha.  Once, he even told a resident he worked for Cox Communications.

"For somebody to go out and steal copper that's theft, that's a crime, but for them to cut phone service to cut internet service essential services to people that's a public safety issue," Bieber explained.

Investigators seized 4 pairs of cable and bolt cutters, a reciprocating saw, and climbing spikes from his truck.  Stearns is being held on $100,000 bond at the Douglas County Jail.  Right now, it’s unclear if more charged will be filed against him.

CenturyLink says they appreciate the public's help in stopping these thefts.  They add that only marked employees will work on those boxes, so be aware of these copper thefts.  It could be your phone or internet that is affected.