AZTEC — A Bloomfield man was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to stealing and destroying 2 miles of telephone wire and selling it in chunks to a local salvage yard.
District Judge William Birdsall on Tuesday sentenced Timothy Smith, 50, to five years of probation and ordered him to pay CenturyLink $81,000. That is the cost of the company's property that was destroyed in the larceny, which happened over the summer near Bloomfield Dam, 6820 U.S. Highway 64.
If Smith completes probation, he will earn a conditional discharge, which means he won't have a felony conviction on his record, San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said.
Smith and Chester Tiley, a 50-year-old Bloomfield man, were arrested in June for allegedly breaking six telephone poles and stealing about 2 miles of telephone wire near Bloomfield Dam. San Juan County Sheriff's Office investigators were alerted about the theft when Bloomfield police arrested Smith in early June on a drug paraphernalia charge and found wire in the back of his Jeep, according to court documents.
CenturyLink told investigators the line was rarely used and served as the only backup phone line to Albuquerque, according to court documents.
Smith told the sheriff's office investigator he found the wire in a trash pile three miles from Bloomfield, according to court documents.
Detective Sgt. Terry McCoy said in an affidavit for Smith's arrest that he went to CBH Trucking and Salvage, 5422 U.S. Highway 64, in June to investigate wire theft. Owners Carl and Bobby Huish told McCoy they paid Smith $1,205.75 for 2,136 feet of wire and Tiley $2,494.70 for 4,573 feet of wire from mid-May to early June, according to court documents.
That's more than 1 mile of telephone wire the two men combined to sell to CBH in a couple of weeks.
Bobby Huish said the business keeps records of all recycled metal purchases and works with law enforcement investigating scrap theft, which is why CBH was able to quickly provide evidence the two men sold CBH about half of the missing wire.
"If we know it's stolen, we wouldn't buy it," Bobby Huish said. "I would have called (police)."
In an interview with a detective, Tiley said Bobby Huish and Tommy Bolack, the owner of B-Square Ranch near Farmington, said the wire was legal to take.
Both men denied they said anything of the sort.
"I'll tell you one thing, I never told anyone it was legal for them to steal something that didn't belong to them," Bolack said. "There's no question. It's grasping at straws."
Bolack said for the past several years he has noticed sections of telephone wire have gone missing near Bloomfield Dam, and he suspected theft and told metal recyclers about his suspicions. He said he didn't know how his name was mentioned by a suspected thief.
"Nobody told those guys to go steal anything," Bobby Huish said.
Smith and Tiley were each charged with seven felonies in connection to the wire theft.
Smith accepted a plea agreement in December that allowed him to avoid prison time.
Brad Kerwin, Smith's attorney, said his client had no criminal history, and he served time in jail while his case was pending.
"This is a good thing," Kerwin said. "Everybody gets money back, and he doesn't go to prison. And he can keep working without telling everyone he has a felony on his record."
Capshaw said probation officers will give Smith a payment plan, which takes into consideration his monthly income and his family situation, for the restitution. Capshaw said it's unlikely Smith will pay back the equivalent of the damages.
Tiley has pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending in district court.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.