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Emily Welker, Published April 12 2013

Tire tracks, footprints lead to arrests in copper theft ring

FARGO – Court documents filed against three men in connection with the city’s biggest copper wire theft in recent memory – a type of theft police say is among the toughest to track down and solve – show investigators used good old-fashioned footprints and tire tracks to help lead them to their suspects.

Luis Perez Jr., 34, of Moorhead, and Elvis Hasimovic, 28, of Fargo, were arrested Wednesday morning after a traffic stop and charged Thursday in Cass County District Court with Class B felony conspiracy to commit theft and Class C felony conspiracy to commit burglary. The charges are linked to a theft last weekend at Dakota Supply Group in north Fargo involving 26,000 pounds of copper estimated to be worth $112,000.

A third man charged Thursday with the Dakota Supply Group burglary was already in custody. Sabastijan Tahirovic, 20, of Fargo, was being held in the Cass County Jail on charges related to another case of copper wire theft, from Rick Electric in Moorhead on Sunday.

According to court documents:

Fargo police detective Ryan Nilson pulled video from Border States, a business near Dakota Supply. The video showed two white vehicles and a

U-Haul truck in the area around Dakota Supply starting at about 11:30 p.m. on the night of the burglary.

The white vehicles pulled into a parking lot just east of Dakota Supply, a lot that has access to the fenced rear storage area of Dakota Supply. The chain link fence around Dakota Supply was cut where the vehicles parked, and there were shoe tracks in the snow there as well.

While Nilson was at

U-Haul on Monday, Perez called the business and asked to change his rental from a local to a one-way. Perez had rented a 26-foot truck Sunday and was now asking to drop off the truck in Madison, Wis.

Tire tracks in the snow at Dakota Supply matched the type of U-Haul Perez rented. Phone records from Perez’s cellphone later show he was in Chicago on Tuesday about 5 p.m. and in Madison two to four hours later.

Fargo police had already arrested Tahirovic for the Rick Electric burglary on Monday, and were holding Tahirovic at the Cass County Jail. While conducting a search warrant on the arrests of Tahirovic and two other men, they found a white car registered to Perez with bolt cutters and pry bars in it.

Nilson matched the shoes Tahirovic was wearing when booked into the Cass County Jail with the tracks at Dakota Supply Group.

In a jailhouse interview, Tahirovic told investigators that Hasimovic and Perez burglarized Dakota Supply, and he also admitted to burglarizing Fargo Electric and Dakota Electric in Grand Forks previously, police allege in court records.

Fargo detectives found Perez had rented a Chrysler from Alamo Car Rental in Madison and pulled the car over in Fargo in a traffic stop. In the car were Perez, Hasimovic and more than $64,000 in cash and checks, police allege in reports.

Perez told police he had made a mistake, was involved with the wrong people and was paying back a favor for a friend, police reports allege.

Hasimovic told police he was a good person and would never steal, according to court records.

Tahirovic, Hasimovic and Perez are each being held on $100,000 bail at the Cass County Jail.

Their next court appearances are set for May 9.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541