Man charged with theft of old plant metal

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Brookhaven man was arrested Wednesday and charged withpilfering metal rubbish from the site of the former HomeliteJacobsen building in Brookhaven’s industrial park.

Brookhaven Police Department Det. Frank Leggett said JustinDavid Pruden, 26, of 520 Laird Circle, was apprehended atBrookhaven Recycling with the bed of his green Nissan pickup filledwith material from the fenced-in site.

Leggett said a pair of witnesses reported seeing Pruden aroundthe old plant site. However, by the time officers arrived, Prudenhad allegedly grabbed his fill and driven straight to the recyclingfacility.

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“He wasn’t wasting no time,” Leggett said.

Leggett said Pruden will be charged with misdemeanor possessionof stolen property and could face a $1,000 fine and up to sixmonths in jail. Leggett said the charges were minor, as the ironI-beams and copper scrap Pruden allegedly took from the oldindustrial site were worth only $50 to $100.

Pruden is the first person to be caught in suspected theft ofscrap metal from the 23-acre site. However, Leggett believes thearea has had many more visitors.

“I think people have been getting into it but we just haven’tcaught them yet,” he said. “We patrol it on a regular basis, justtrying to deter [theft], but you can’t watch it 24/7.”

Leggett said police are concerned about thieves stealing fromthe Homelite Jacobsen site because of the danger posed by thethousand-ton piles of scrap.

“You can get hurt real easy,” he said. “You start pulling stuffoff the bottom of the pile and it could start falling at you.”

Pruden is scheduled to appear in court next week.

The future of the Homelite Jacobson site is less certain.

Property owner Nicollette Nguyen, owner of Texas-based AppliedPrinciples, bought the property for $450,000 last April, intendingto demolish the building and sell the scrap.

The demolition was completed, but cleanup efforts were halted inSeptember when the scrap metal market plummeted. A contract disputebetween Nguyen and Monticello demolition contractor Kevin ClaudeDavis has resulted in Davis placing a $23,000 lien on the propertywhile Nguyen waits for the market to improve before resumingoperations.

City, county and business leaders, meanwhile, are waitingimpatiently for the site to be cleaned and hopefully sold toanother company that could use it to create jobs.