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Two men charged with stealing, damaging Milwaukee businesses to steal metal


MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Two Milwaukee men are due back in court April 15th, for allegedly stealing and damaging business rooftop equipment to get the scrap metal.

39-year-old Gary Vanpelt and 48-year-old Kirk Johnson are charged with a total of 14 felony counts of theft and criminal damage.

Police said the two were apparently in charge of a larger operation in which 150 Milwaukee businesses had rooftop metal items damaged or stolen. The losses totaled $750,000.

Vanpelt and Johnson have pleaded not guilty, and trial dates could be set at their next court appearances.

The two are accused of taking metals from a dozen businesses. Police said they only got about $100 worth of scrap metal from each incident.

Ronald Oleson had his food store damaged twice – and the stolen copper from rooftop condensers caused him to spend $30,000 to replace the equipment, plus $10,000 on damaged food.

Milwaukee Police captain Chad Wagner says the thefts create a, “rotten effect” on neighborhoods. He says businesses suffer not only because of the losses, but also because of higher insurance premiums and a bad reputation to surrounding properties.

Police captain Terrence Gordon tells the Journal Sentinel, “Violent crime makes headlines. Property crime is a neighborhood-killer.”