PORT RICHEY — When copper water pipe fittings were being stolen near local homes and businesses, the police department came up with a plan to catch the thief: They replaced the missing equipment, tagged them with GPS units and hoped the criminal would return to the same areas and take the bait.
"And as it turned out, one happened to do just that," said Port Richey Police Chief Dave Brown.
Michael C. Flanagan, 42, was arrested Monday at a Burger King on U.S. 19 in Port Richey with a stolen — and tagged — pipe in his vehicle, according to Port Richey Police. Flanagan was charged with 21 counts of grand theft. Copper is often stolen for its scrap value.
Brown said the thefts have been occurring for several weeks and 40 homes and businesses have been victims. He said he thinks Flanagan is the only suspect.
The parts are owned by the Port Richey water department and are used to prevent backflow of contaminated water into the pipes. The theft has cost the city thousands of dollars, Brown said.
"I hope this puts an end to it," he said.
Flanagan, of 11034 Pickering Lane in Port Richey, is being held at the Pasco jail in lieu of $51,000 bail.