Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested 12 suspects accused of stealing more than $500,000 in underground copper cable from South Florida to Central Florida.
The investigation began in October 2014 after a request from Florida Power & Light regarding the theft and destruction of underground electric and fiber optic cables.
While most of the thefts occurred in Miami-Dade, thefts also happened in Broward and Volusia Counties, according to investigators.
FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Troy Walker said, "These thefts posed a substantial threat to the community by making critical electric and communications infrastructure vulnerable to failure with at least one theft damaging adjacent fiber optic cables carrying 911 communications."
In undercover surveillance video, there appears to be FPL employees working on a busy street corner, pulling copper cables from underground. But they were not.
Half of them worked during the day as real FPL sub contractors, while the others were recruited for the scheme, and all would come back at night in fake utility trucks. The men would allegedly steal the same FPL power cables they were hired to install; back up cables that run electricity to your home in case of an emergency.
"It's probably over 12 miles worth, so enough to stretch from Miami to Fort Lauderdale airport," investigators said.
They said Giovanny Regidor was the ring leader, Carlos Aragon the recruiter, and Joan Barrios Cruz in charge of selling the highly profitable stolen copper. He owns the scrap metal yard on Northwest 32nd Avenue in Miami.
A total of 13 men have been charged, most of them from the Miami area. 12 men are behind bars, and the 13th suspect hasn't been arrested yet. He reportedly fled the state.
Investigators said this went on for a while because the men were stealing back up cables that weren't noticed right away.
After stealing the copper cable, investigators said the suspects sold the copper to metal recycling facilities across Miami-Dade.
The Miami-Dade, City of Miami, Sunrise and Daytona Beach Police Departments, along with the Broward County Sheriff's Office assisted in the investigation.