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Emily Welker, Published June 03 2013

Copper piping theft causes flooding in Moorhead apartment building

MOORHEAD – A Moorhead man faces two felony charges after allegedly stealing copper piping from a building here, causing the first floor of the apartment building to flood and doing more than $1,000 worth of damage.

Mason James Smith, 39, was charged Friday in Clay County District Court with one count of second-degree burglary and one count of first-degree damage to property.

Court documents filed in the case state Moorhead police officers were called at 1:20 a.m. Thursday to an apartment building at 1107 19th St. S. on a burglary and theft call.

The maintenance caretaker of the building reported to the property manager that water flooded throughout the first floor of the building after copper pipes in its mechanical room were cut and stolen.

Court documents state a witness told Moorhead police Officer Shawn Carlson that she had seen Smith the previous day at the apartment building asking for a hacksaw or a hammer.

A second witness told Carlson he gave Smith a ride to Gerdau Ameristeel in Fargo, and that Smith had a garbage can full of copper piping taken from the entryway of the apartment building.

The witness told Carlson that Smith sold the copper to Gerdau Ameristeel. The business later confirmed to Carlson that Smith turned in 35 pounds of copper and was paid $89.25.

Court documents state that when officers contacted Smith, he told them he stole the copper pipes because he thought the building was abandoned. He admitted selling the copper to Gerdau Ameristeel.

Moorhead police stated the building was unoccupied at the time of the burglary. A call to the owners of the building, John and Constance Marquart, of Fargo, was not returned.

Smith was arrested on the felony charges and other outstanding theft warrant charges in Clay County, and bailed out of jail on Friday. Bail was set at $1,000.

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