VERNAL — Arrest warrants have been issued for three Colorado men who are accused of stealing more than 20 miles of copper wire from telephone poles in eastern Uintah County.

John Michael Parks, 47, Nathaneal Lee Richardson, 31, and Karl Ray Wakefield, 31, were charged Oct. 20 in 8th District Court with one count each of theft, a second-degree felony.

A representative from Strata Networks contacted Uintah County sheriff's investigators in late August to report that the telecommunications company was missing 20 miles of copper transmission line from its poles. The missing line spanned from the Green River Bridge near Jensen to the Old Bonanza Highway and then south into the oil and natural gas fields of Uintah County, according to court records.

Deputies said they visited a metal recycling center in Vernal, where they obtained samples of copper wire that matched the missing wire. A recycling center employee said the wire had been purchased from Parks, Wakefield and a third man, court records state.

Investigators tracked Parks to a trailer court in Colorado and questioned him. He admitted to taking "downed lines" from the area and said Wakefield and Richardson had helped him, the charges state.

"He told us that he made several trips over the period of more than a month," court records state. "Sometimes he had to use flashlights while recovering the wire."

Authorities also interviewed Richardson, who corroborated Parks' statement.

Richardson identified a fourth man, as well, who told investigators that he helped the three men broker a better price for the stolen wire, according to court records. That man has not been charged with a crime.

Tyler Rasmussen, spokesman for Strata Networks, said the copper line was still affixed to the telephone poles when it was taken. "It had recently been abandoned but before we had a chance to go get it, some individuals came and helped themselves to it," he said.

Strata had already been delivering service to the area through a different method, Rasmussen said, which is why there were no complaints about service outages when the copper wire was taken.

Parks and Richardson are each being sought on a $10,000 arrest warrant, while Wakefield is being sought on a $20,000 arrest warrant.

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