Authorities: Former Luther Councilman Ordered Inmates To Steal Copper From Tornado Sirens
LUTHER, Oklahoma - A former Luther city councilman has been arrested for ordering inmates to steal copper from Oklahoma County tornado sirens.
According to the Oklahoma County Sheriff's office, 66-year-old James Richard Smith, who at the time of the crime was serving his 12th year as councilman, ordered Oklahoma Department of Corrections work release inmates to steal copper from Oklahoma County tornado sirens.
Smith was arrested Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Oklahoma County Jail on six counts of possession of stolen copper wire/cable and one count of pattern of criminal offense. He is being held on $14,000 bond.
Luther police reported the case to the sheriff's office in January of 2015 for an independent investigation into the crime. Sheriff's office detectives said they discovered that during a city-wide cleanup in October of 2014, Smith ordered three work release inmates from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to strip six tornado sirens of metal.
The inmates were contracted to work for the city of Luther through Clara Waters Community Center, which is a DOC work release program. Authorities said Smith supervised those inmates during the city wide cleanup.
According to the sheriff's office, the sirens were stored behind Luther Town Hall. They were given to Oklahoma County by the City of Del City after they replaced their system, and officials intended on installing the sirens for Luther citizens.
After aluminum and copper were stripped, Smith personally sold the material to a Lincoln County recycling company, according to the sheriff's office. Authorities said Smith received nearly $160 from the recycling company, and he paid the inmates $120 for taking the copper and aluminum.
“Preliminary estimates to repair the sirens is $30,000,”said Oklahoma County Sheriff Whetsel. “It is a tragedy that an elected official would try to make a profit by destroying county owned lifesaving equipment for use in his own community.”
Smith's term as councilman was over in April of 2015.
Authorities said they have no plans to present charges against the DOC inmates due to the fact they acted under the orders and authority of Smith.