Nebraska utility says copper theft was an inside job

OMAHA, Neb. --

Omaha investigators said the theft of $14,000 in copper from an Omaha Public Power District substation was an inside job.

A former employee, 51-year-old Stanley Mac, has been charged with felony theft.

Investigators said Mac cashed in on the thefts during the past year and a half, and they believe he worked alone.

Signs posted at substations warn of danger, but thieves still get inside and get away.

"Some of these guys risk their lives taking copper off transformers," said Lt. Mark Gentile with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "Things can electrocute them."

Mac knew his way around the dangerous spots, investigators said. Gentile said he believes Mac stole 3,200 pounds of copper and aluminum during the past 18 months.

"He knew what he was doing what money he could get from this," Gentile said.

Pictures given to KETV show some of the OPPD tools and wires investigators said they found in Mac's home during a search warrant.

Documents described the sting operation that led investigators to Mac.

With OPPD's help, sheriff's investigators set up surveillance at various substations.

Sheriff's investigators put a GPS tracking device inside a 200-pound bundle of copper wire, according to the documents.

Documents showed that Mac returned 35 pounds of the original 200 pounds of copper wire on a different spool investigators had planted in the power plant, noting that Mac would have to manually re-roll the copper wire onto another spool.

Investigators said Mac also returned the GPS unit, though it was missing an antenna.

But the GPS device still had a shipping tag attached, one that was unique to the original spool used in the sting operation and not connected to the other spool Mac returned.

Mac declined to comment on the case, saying only that he isn’t guilty of the crime.

OPPD and investigators said this won't be the last copper theft and will continue to use what tools they can to stop the stealing.

Mac goes to court next week. OPPD declined to comment on Mac's charges and the sting operation. They said Mac is no longer an employee.

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