Bethlehem police: Man and 2 lookouts steal 25,000 in copper from Martin Tower
Nov 28, 2012 (The Morning Call (Menafn - Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --A man charged with six burglaries in Bethlehem's Martin Tower told investigators he was only "exploring" the vacant building, but he was in fact stealing copper, police say.
Repeated thefts of copper from the former headquarters of Bethlehem Steel led to the installation of video and audio recording devices throughout the 21-story building, court records state.
Investigators said those recordings show Erik Michael Hotton, 27, in the building stealing copper, according to an arrest affidavit. Police say an estimated 25,000 worth of copper has been stolen over the past six weeks.
Hotton, of 927 Tilghman St. in Allentown, is charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, theft and receiving stolen property. He was sent to Lehigh County Prison under 75,000 bail.
Police have also charged Ricardo Guerrero, 23, and an unnamed 15-year-old Allentown boy, with burglary and conspiracy charges. Guerrero was sent to Lehigh County Prison under 25,000 bail; police did not release information on the status of the teen.
According to court records:
Police were called to Martin Tower for an alarm around 11:15 p.m. Monday.
Police said they knew the thieves were using walkie-talkies to communicate with each other during the heists.
As officers surrounded the building, they saw the suspects with flashlights inside. When an officer yelled at them to get down on the ground, the suspects fled.
Police said they caught the men, identified as Hotton, Guerrero and the teen, after a foot chase. All three had flashlights and walkie-talkies.
Hotton told police multiple times, "This is a summary offense. It is just simple trespass."
In an interview with police, Hotton admitted he was in the building "exploring." He told police that he had conducted research on Bethlehem Steel and the tower, but declined to comment further.
Police said a man identified as Hotton was in the building stealing copper on various dates from Oct. 19 through Monday.
Police said Guerrero and the teen told investigators Hotton had offered them 50 each to act as lookouts while he stole copper from the building.
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