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Police charge 3 in connection with 3 cases of copper theft

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Police have arrested and charged three men in separate cases of copper theft in the last eight days.

The three cases involved different circumstances and occurred in different parts of the island. The three suspects appear to be homeless.

The latest and largest case involves Charles V. Niheu, 39, who police say is one of two people responsible for cutting and removing 700 feet of copper wire at the H-2 northbound Wahiawa offramp in September and possibly earlier.

Police said they received an anonymous tip that Niheu and another man stripped the insulation off the copper wire in a wooded area nearby and then sold it to recycling centers in Wahiawa and Halawa, according to an affidavit filed in Honolulu District Court.

In one instance, Niheu received an $87.29 check for 40.6 pounds of copper wire from a recycling center, police said.

Police later found copper wire matching the wire stolen from the offramp in a bin at one of the recycling centers.

Niheu was arrested Thursday at Kilani Avenue and Kamehameha Highway and was charged yesterday with copper theft. He is being held in lieu of $20,000 bail and will make his first appearance in District Court on Monday.

Another suspect is still being sought in the case, police said.

On Wednesday, police arrested Matthew S. Hitchcock, 31, for allegedly stealing an unknown amount of copper wire from the Coast Guard Omega Station in Kaneohe.

Witnesses said they saw Hitchcock loading the wire into his vehicle, police said.

When he was arrested on Keaahala Road at 10 a.m. Wednesday, he was also found with what appeared to be crystal methamphetamine and a meth pipe, police said. He was charged with copper theft, third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Hitchcock is being held in lieu of $11,000 bail and a preliminary hearing has been set for Oct. 19.

On Oct. 8, police arrested Reynold Oto, 44, on Nuuanu Avenue. Police said he stole a copper downspout section of a rain gutter from a Nuuanu home.

A witness flagged down police, who were able to locate and arrest Oto.

Oto, who has already had a preliminary hearing, is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail. He will be arraigned in Circuit Court on Oct. 25.

Stealing a pound or more of copper is a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

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