ROCKFORD — Winnebago County Sheriff detectives have arrested two suspects they say were involved in multiple thefts of copper and farm machinery.
Andrew A. Garkey, 26, and Cecil C. Sexton, 25, were arrested Sunday at around 11:20 p.m. after the truck they were in was stopped by detectives in the 6900 block of Kilburn Road.
Barbed wire, fence posts and other farm equipment was found in the truck. The items matched descriptions of items stolen from a farm on Severson Road earlier in the day, said Dominic Iasparro, deputy chief for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office.
Iasparro said the two were charged with felony theft and other charges are still pending as the investigation continues. Both Garkey and Sexton remain in custody at the Winnebago County Jail.
Investigators executed a search warrant at Garkey’s house at 6949 Kilburn Ave. on Monday morning. Multiple stolen items including metal farm gates were recovered in the search.
The incident is part of numerous thefts being reported around areas in Winnebago, Boone and Ogle counties. Hundreds of pounds of wire have been stolen along with tools and major damage has been done to machinery. Iasparro said Garkey and Sexton are believed to be involved in multiple thefts, but not all the reported thefts.
Iasparro said copper wiring has been stolen the most from air conditioners.
“They have to strip the wire to get at the copper,” he said. “The copper is what’s valuable, and then they sell it.”
Local scrap yards have been made aware of the potential of stolen copper. However, he said, it can be difficult to determine what’s been stolen and what is legitimate.
“The copper obviously isn’t marked in any way, and many times when you take in the copper they don’t know where it is coming from,” he said. “They buy it from dozens of people. And there are legit scrappers that sell the copper.”
He added the scrap yards are cooperating with investigators about reporting anything suspicious to police. Iasparro said the sheriff’s office is working with the Boone County and Ogle County sheriff’s departments and the Belvidere Police Department on investigating the theft reports.