COVINGTON, Ky. - Employees of Duke Energy are accused of stealing company operating materials and selling them to establishments in Northern Kentucky.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment Thursday charging nine people, four of whom worked for the gas and electric company at its regional office located in Hamilton County, Ohio, with conspiracy to transport goods in interstate commerce, transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce, receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to launder money.
Employees of Duke Energy allegedly conspired with others and a local recycling facility owner to transport copper wire from company job sites to Northern Kentucky with the intention of selling it.
According to the indictment, the alleged conspiracy lasted from approximately 2006 until around the middle of November 2010.
The defendants in the case include Duke's former maintenance and construction supervisor Keith Kremer, 45, of California, Ky., and Cincinnati resident Dennis Johnson, 38, who owns the recycling facility that is alleged to have been aiding sale of the stolen goods.
The other defendants are Michael T. Rinehard, 44, of Hebron Ky.; Troy J. Shira, 41, of Hebron; Kobie K. Baker, 38, of Cincinnati; Frederick L. Buckler, 44, of Alexandria, Ky.; Justin T. Franzen, 22, of Alexandria; Jordan M. Franzaen, 23, of Alexandria; and Joseph Martin. 46, of California, Ky.
The four Duke Energy employees indicted no longer work for the company.
The indictment indicates Duke Energy uses copper wire to help deliver electricity to customers in the Tri-State. Duke's construction workers are responsible for replacing old copper wire and installing new wire on an ongoing basis.
According to the indictment, Duke's work crews are supposed to take excess copper wire to the company's recycling plant on Dana Avenue. The suspects in this case are believed to have sold the extra wire to metal recycling facilities in Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties. The proceeds from the sales were divvied up among the conspiracy members, police say.
The investigation by the IRS, Office of Criminal Investigations was conducted after Duke Energy contacted authorities about the situation.
The charges of transportation of stolen goods and conspiracy carry maximum penalties of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively. The money laundering and receipt of stolen goods charges both carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.
A date for the defendants to appear in court has not yet been set.
Stay tuned with 9 News and WCPO.com for updates on this developing story.
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