Cumberland Times-News

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January 11, 2013

Deputy’s secretly placed calling card leads to arrest in Westernport copper theft cases

Investigation prompts charges against man, 24

WESTERNPORT — When an Allegany County sheriff’s deputy investigated a recent theft complaint on Maryland Avenue in Westernport, he found copper pipes bundled and lying outside the vacant dwelling.

Three bundles of the stolen copper were wrapped in duct tape and placed outside the residence. The suspect fled before he could take the pipe that had been removed from the basement ceiling of the residence.

One bundle was taken to check for fingerprints and two bundles were left behind — with the deputy’s police business card tucked away inside a pipe within each bundle.

A possible suspect was developed early in the investigation.

The deputy later contacted local salvage yards to watch for bundles of pipe that might be presented to them as salvage materials.

Two hours after those contacts, the deputy’s investigative ingenuity paid off.

The suspect had turned in the copper pipe to a Westernport salvage yard.

The employee contacted the investigating officer, who directed him to take a close look at the ends of the pipe.

To the employee’s surprise, a piece of paper could be seen in the end of one of the pipes. The employee pulled out the paper and found the deputy’s business card.

The deputy then applied for charges at district court, leading to the arrest of 24-year-old Blake Edward Cronk of Westernport, charging Cronk with burglary, theft and destruction of property.

Further investigation led to more of the same charges filed against Cronk for allegedly breaking into another vacant Maryland Avenue residence in Westernport. Copper pipe and electrical wiring were removed in that incident on Dec. 25.

Cronk remained at the Allegany County Detention Center on Friday on bond totaling $7,500 stemming from both cases.

Cronk is scheduled to appear in preliminary hearings in district court Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, according to court documents.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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