Austin Energy employees accused of stealing copper

FILE - copper

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two City of Austin employees were charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of copper and then selling it. Cornel Shoaf works for Austin Energy. He’s accused of stealing the copper along with another Austin Energy employee, David Lee. We’re told Lee has been arrested but hasn’t yet been booked.

Metal theft is a big problem here in central Texas but we expect more from city employees. KXAN asked Austin Energy if they’re doing enough to make sure they’re employees follow the rules

Austin Energy spokesman Robert Cullick says, “This is the type of conductor that was stolen from our reclamation center.”

Covered in copper, it weighs about 10 pounds and is worth roughly $25. Investigators say thousands of pounds of these conductors were taken from Austin Energy’s Reclamation Center.

Cullick says, “Austin Energy is very disappointed at the actions that have been alleged.”

Shoaf worked at the city’s reclamation center as a senior stores specialist. He’s accused of returning to work after hours and letting people in to steal the copper. KXAN wanted to know if Austin Energy keeps track of its employees who go there when not on the clock.

KXAN asked, “Do they currently have to do that? Log in, sign in or let anyone know they’re there after hours?” Cullick says,”We’re doing an investigation to look at all internal controls in place to see if more internal controls need to be enforced or in place. KXAN asked, “Is that in place now? Cullick says, “I don’t know.”

Investigators say the suspects then came here to CD Recycling where they allegedly sold the copper worth more than $100,000 dollars. The owner of CD Recycling didn’t want to talk on camera but says they follow the law when buying copper, which includes checking ID and getting video of the customers.

Right now both employees are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The reclamation center generates an average of $1 million dollars a year for Austin Energy.

We checked to see what type of background checks were done on these city employees. Austin Energy told us David Lee passed in 2011 and 2013. Cornel Shoaf passed background checks in 2012 and this year.

The reclamation center serves as a transfer point where equipment brought in by field crews is broken down into components and put back into service or recycled.

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