SAN AUGUSTINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - San Augustine County Sheriff's deputies arrested a third suspect in connection to a copper theft ring Wednesday. Tasha Maree McCarty, 22, was charged with two counts of theft and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The group of suspects allegedly stole a large amount of copper from a Deep East Texas Electric Co-op substation and tried to sell it at a local scrap metal recycling business.
McCarty, of San Augustine, is still being held in the San Augustine County Jail on two state jail felony theft of copper charges and one third-degree felony charge of engaging in organized criminal activity. Collectively, her bond has been set at $20,000 for the three charges.
A SACSO deputy located McCarty when the officer was trying to serve unrelated arrest warrants on McCarty's boyfriend, Brian Ashley McCoy, 25, of San Augustine. McCarty was driving McCoy's car when the deputy stopped her near the Colonial Pines Healthcare Center, which is located on FM 1277 in San Augustine.
Because the SACSO deputy was unaware of the outstanding arrest warrants that had been issued for McCarty, who said she was on her way to work at Colonial Pines, he let her go. When deputies learned of McCarty's warrants, they returned to the nursing home, hoping to locate McCarty. Her mother, who also works at the facility, told them her daughter had gone home for the evening. The mother told deputies that she would bring McCarty by the San Augustine County Sheriff's office to turn herself in to authorities.
However, later Wednesday night, Tasha contacted SACSO Deputy Christopher King and told him that she wanted him to come to her father's house to pick her up on the outstanding warrants. While another deputy was transporting McCarty to jail, the woman's father called the second deputy and told him that McCoy was at his house and the deputy should "come and get him."
McCoy was arrested on two outstanding warrants for felony assault family violence-impeding normal breathing and retaliation. Collectively, his bond was set at $20,000.
According to an incident report, the SACSO was contacted on Aug. 30 by Sabine County Deputy David West in regard to a theft of copper incident that may have occurred at the Deep East Texas Electric Co-op's Holly substation located on FM 3451.
Deputy Tammy Fountain of the SACSO met with West, and two Deep East Texas Electric Co-op employees at the substation. West told her that he had received a call from an employee of Extreme Scrap in San Augustine stating that someone had brought in copper that he believed had been taken from electric substations in Sabine County, the incident report stated.
However, West told Fountain he thought the copper might have actually been stolen from the Deep East Texas substation in San Augustine. The two pieces of bus bar copper West had as evidence matched up to a remaining piece on a transformer at the Holly substation.
While the deputies were investigating the substation, they found that someone had broken into the substation since August 31, when the initial incident was reported. The lock had been removed from the west gate, and copper wire was missing from the site.
West told Fountain that a white female by the name of Tricia Jackson allegedly brought the stolen copper to Extreme Scrap on August 27, the incident report stated. Jackson refused to provide proof of identity and made a phone call. Shortly afterward, McCarty came to the scrap yard, gave her identifying information, and signed for the copper.
The Deep East Texas Electric Co-op employee told Fountain that some of the stolen copper belonged to the Tex-La Electric Cooperative of Nacogdoches even though Deep East Texas operates the facility.
SACSO deputies identified McCarty in surveillance camera footage obtained from the scrap yard. The video also showed Jackson arriving at the scrap yard in a white Dodge ram pickup that also contained "an unknown white male and a white female." On Sept. 4, Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham identified the male from the video as Collis Ray Simmons, who evaded arrest on Aug. 31.
Simmons, 45, is still on the loose. On Sept. 6, the SACSO issued an arrest warrant for the man in connection to the copper theft. Simmons is a white male with short brown hair and blue eyes. He is 5'4" and weighs 130 pounds. According to law enforcement officials, Simmons has a history of evading arrest and will likely flee if confronted by the authorities.
Anyone with information that can lead to Simmons' arrest should contact his or her local law enforcement agency or the San Augustine County Sheriff's Office at (936) 275-2424.
SACSO deputies have also arrested two other women in connection to the alleged copper theft ring. On Sept. 16, San Augustine County Sheriff's deputies arrested Patricia Ebarb Jackson, 40, of San Augustine, and charged her with two counts of felony theft and engaging in organized criminal activity. Patricia Jackson is no longer being held in the San Augustine County Jail. Her collective bond for the three charges had been set at $35,000.
In early September, Paula Jackson, 41, of Hemphill, was taken into custody and charged with theft of copper, and she is still being held in the San Augustine Jail.