AUGUSTA — A city man taken into custody after firefighters were called to help remove him from a roof has been charged in connection with the theft of thousands of dollars of stolen wire from a Belgrade utility site.

Police also said they watched as Joseph Ridley unloaded “armloads” of copper wire at an Augusta recycling company earlier this month.

Ridley, 42, was arrested last week on a charge of theft. He was held over the weekend at the Kennebec County jail in lieu of $3,500 cash bail.

Ridley was arrested after hiding on the roof of his Winthrop Street apartment building, according to an affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by state police Trooper Adam McNaughton.

“We located him and called the Fire Department to get him down,” McNaughton wrote.

McNaughton said Ridley admitted having stolen wire from a Belgrade site owned by Central Maine Power Co.

Gail Rice, spokeswoman for CMP, declined to speak specifically about the stolen material, but she said the company has had numerous thefts in the past. She said stealing copper from a substation, particularly when it involves cutting ground wires or breaking behind fences, is dangerous because of the high voltage.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” Rice said. “People have died.”

Rice said scrap metal yards are required to document material that is salvaged and who turned it in.

“People will get caught,” she said. “They have been caught.” McNaughton, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and Waterville and Winslow police investigated several complaints of copper wire stolen in June and July from CMP substations in Manchester, Waterville and Windsor.

Augusta police on July 14 found what appeared to be CMP copper wire at AMI Recycling in Augusta. The next day, July 15, Winslow police took a report of copper ground wire cut from a CMP substation on Benton Avenue. The utility company replaced the wire, but the new wire was stolen the next night.

McNaughton visited AMI after the second Benton Avenue theft. An AMI employee said Ridley had “brought in coils of what appeared to be telephone pole guide wire with clamps on it.”

McNaughton also found several rolls of solid copper wire that matched the material stolen from CMP.

Ridley arrived at AMI while McNaughton was there, according to police. The trooper said he watched as Ridley unloaded armloads of “what looked like brand new thick copper wire similar to what the CMP wire was.”

CMP officials subsequently confirmed the material was theirs.

Ridley admitted having stolen copper wire from a CMP site in Belgrade, but denied stealing from the other substations, according to McNaughton. The value of the material stolen from Belgrade totaled about $2,000, McNaughton said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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