Duke employees accused of stealing, selling copper wire

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - Employees from an electric and gas company are accused of stealing company operating materials and selling them to establishments in northern Kentucky.

A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging nine people, four of which worked for Duke Energy's regional office located in Hamilton County, Ohio, with conspiracy to transport goods in interstate commerce, transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce, receiving stolen goods, and conspiracy to launder money.

Employees of Duke Energy allegedly conspired with others and a recycling facility owner to transport copper wire from Duke Energy's job sites to northern Kentucky to sell it. The alleged conspiracy lasted from approximately 2006 until around mid-November of 2010.

The indictment says Duke uses copper wire to help deliver electricity to customers in the greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky areas. Duke's construction workers are responsible for replacing old copper wire and installing new wire on an ongoing basis.

According to the indictment, Duke's work crews were supposed to take excess copper wire to Duke's recycling plant on Dana Avenue. Instead, they sold it for cash to metal recycling facilities in Kenton, Campbell and Boone Counties. The proceeds were divvied up among the conspiracy members.

The investigation started after Duke Energy alerted authorities of the matter. The four Duke Energy employees indicted no longer work for the company.

The defendants in the case include Duke's former maintenance and construction supervisor Keith Kremer, 45, of California, Ky., and 38-year-old Dennis Johnson of Cincinnati who owns a recycling facility in Ohio. The other defendants are Michael T. Rinehard, 44, of Hebron Ky.; Troy J. Shira, 41, of Hebron; Kobie K. Baker, 38, of Cincinnati; Frederick L. Buckler, 44, of Alexandria, Ky.; Justin T. Franzen, 22, of Alexandria; Jordan M. Franzen, 23, of Alexandria and Joseph Martin.46, of California, Ky.

A date for the defendants to appear in court has not yet been set. The charges of transportation of stolen goods and conspiracy carry maximum penalties of 10 years and 5 years in prison respectively. The money laundering and receipt of stolen goods both carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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