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Five charged in metal-theft cases

March 31, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • These five people have been charged in connection with thefts of precious metals. Top row, from left, Patrick Jon Kemmerer, Gregory Lee Mason Jr. and Steven Craig Munson; bottom row, from left, Talib L. Simmons and Stacey Nicole Smoot.
Submitted photos

HAGERSTOWN — Using surveillance operations to track suspects, area police have charged five Hagerstown residents since Feb. 7 in precious-metal theft investigations, according to police and court records.

A detective involved in the case said the number of copper thefts has declined in the city since the arrests.

The investigations involved three police agencies in Washington and Frederick counties, with the success of the operations “as good as it gets” in police work, Hagerstown Police Department Capt. Mark Holtzman said.

According to police and court records, the following arrests were made:
• Talib L. Simmons, 28, 11331 Youngstown Drive, Apt. 2006.
• Gregory Lee Mason Jr., 34, 439 S. Burhans Blvd.
• Patrick Jon Kemmerer, 20, 870 Frederick St.
• Stacey Nicole Smoot, 29, 226 E. Franklin St.
• Steven Craig Munson, 23, 66 E. North Ave., Apt. 1

Simmons has been charged with first-, third- and fourth-degree burglary, theft, destruction of personal property and destruction of property being a dwelling, said Cpl. Jennifer Bailey of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

Both Munson and Kemmerer were charged with fourth-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit fourth-degree burglary, theft of less than $1,000 value and conspiracy to commit theft of less than $1,000 in value, according to Washington County District Court records.

Smoot was charged with fourth-degree burglary and theft of less than $1,000 value, and Mason was charged with first-degree attempted burglary, third-degree attempted burglary, fourth-degree attempted burglary, fourth-degree burglary and possession of burglar’s tools with the intent to use them in a burglary, the court records said.

Hagerstown police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office have been investigating a spree of copper thefts in homes in recent months. In some cases, thieves have cut copper water pipes, allowing water to run into the homes, causing flooding damage.

Hagerstown police have handled 42 copper thefts, Sgt. Rebecca Fetchu said. The copper pipe, which was often stolen from homes up for sale or ones in foreclosure, can be sold at scrap yards for about $3.40 a pound.

In their investigation of copper thefts, police used anonymous tips and confidential informants, among other resources, Hagerstown police Detective Nicholas Varner said in court documents related to the charges against Mason.

The rate of copper thefts in the city has fallen off since charges have been filed in the investigations, said Fetchu, who is a detective.

In the Simmons case, investigators conducting surveillance followed him to the area of a vacant house in the 400 block of Main Street in Middletown, Md., on March 24, Fetchu said.

It appears copper pipes were cut inside the home, and about $5,000 in damages were caused, Bailey said.

After Simmons was spotted in the area of the home, Hagerstown police notified the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, whose officers stopped a vehicle being driven by Simmons at U.S. 40 and Hollow Road near Middletown, according to Fetchu and Bailey.

In the vehicle, police were able to see a large pair of cutters sticking out from beneath a seat, a pair of muddy gloves and a flashlight, according to Bailey.

Surveillance conducted

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The case against Mason involved surveillance Hagerstown police detectives conducted on him on Feb. 16, according to court records.

At about 11 a.m., Varner said a brown GMC Jimmy was parked on Center Street. Mason got out of the vehicle and started walking south on Brewer Avenue, the records said.

Police heard noises coming from a house in the 400 block of Brewer Avenue, and Mason was observed between a storm door and the front door of the house, the records said.

Mason left the area, but fresh pry marks were found on front, side and rear doors, the records said.  Mason was found off South Burhans Boulevard and taken into custody, the records said.

The brown GMC Jimmy was also found on South Burhans Boulevard, and tools commonly used in copper thefts could be seen inside, the records said.

During an interview with police, Mason admitted he was attempting to burglarize a house on Brewer Avenue, the records said.


Missing radiators

The charges against Kemmerer, Smoot and Munson stemmed from radiators missing from Elwood’s Auto Exchange at 21411 Jefferson Blvd. in Smithsburg, according to the court records.

The business is also known as Grimm’s Junkyard.

Detective Tim Atwell said in court records that during an interview with Kemmerer he told him that he knew Kemmerer had been in the area of Elwood’s Auto Exchange on Feb. 5, and that Kemmerer had driven across two snow-covered fields toward the junkyard.

Kemmerer said he drove Smoot and Munson across the fields, and that Munson got out of the truck and loaded radiators into it, the records said.

Kemmerer said while he was driving on Old Forge Road, Munson told him to drive down a lane beside a field, and “they would off load the radiators there,” the records said.

Atwell said he recovered 36 radiators from a field in the area of Old Forge Road and Shiloh Church Road on Feb. 6, the records said.

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