Authorities make $200,000 bust in cell phone tower thefts - KCTV5

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Authorities make $200,000 bust in cell phone tower thefts

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JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -

A search of a home uncovered at least $200,000 in stolen parts and copper, according to sources, all believed to be from cell phone towers.

Sources involved in the investigation said the crime is wreaking havoc on both sides of the state line.

It's a problem that was so bad authorities in Johnson County and Miami County, KS, and Cass County, MO, formed a task force which so far has led to the arrest and charges against two men.

"They do whatever it takes to get access to them, whether that's going through fences or anything else," said Johnson County district attorney Steve Howe.

A YouTube video shows two suspects breaking into a secure area which houses a cell phone tower. Authorities put the video on the internet in hopes of figuring out who the men were.

Now Anthony Bryan and James Obannon are in custody, each charged with felony theft and criminal damage to property, among other charges.

Their arrests could be just the beginning.

"I think it's naive to think those are the only two individuals that are committing these crimes," Howe said.

Since Jan. 1 in Olathe, KS, alone there have been five reports of cell phone tower break-ins and thefts. Sources say the damage being done to the towers is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After the arrest of Bryan and Obannon, a search conducted at a home connected to the men uncovered $200,000 in computer parts and copper, sources say. Howe won't discuss the details of the case involving the two men, but said what's happening here is happening everywhere.

"Some of the electronic components used in cell phone towers are made out of copper and the price of copper is going through the roof making it more attractive for thieves," he said.

In addition to the costly damage done to the towers, Howe said the copper is part of the grounding component and without it, if there's a lightning strike, it could fry all the electronics inside and make the tower useless. That means an entire area could be left without service.

"It has an impact on the community and we take it seriously," he said.

More charges could come against Bryan and Obannon as the investigation is continuing.

KCTV5 contacted Sprint to find out if the thefts are having an impact on service, but we haven't heard back from them.

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