SALISBURY — Local police will be charging three men in connection with a large copper theft in New Hampshire earlier this month. The charges come after the thieves peddled the copper at salvage businesses in both Salisbury and Amesbury, police said.
Salisbury police Detective Anthony King said William Muse, 42, and Nicholas Grandmaison, 28, both of North Hampton, N.H., and Christopher Hillsgrove, 39, of Exeter, N.H., will be issued summonses on charges of receiving stolen property more than $250 in connection with an incident in town.
Muse and Hillsgrove are also facing receiving stolen property charges out of Amesbury, where police there believe they sold stolen copper to Railroad Avenue salvage company NA Nichols.
King said that in early August the trio broke into the Electric Barn on Lafayette Road in North Hampton and stole high-voltage load switches made with copper. It will cost the owner of the Electric Barn up to $6,000 to replace the damaged items, King said.
Hillsgrove and Muse went to Salisbury Auto Salvage on Main Street on Aug. 6 and were paid $220.70 for the copper, police said. Grandmaison returned to Salisbury Auto Salvage Aug. 8 and sold $127.60 worth of copper. All three suspects returned to the Main Street business later that day and tried to sell more copper, but were turned away after they couldn't prove where they got their merchandise.
"If they see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, they will call us," King said of Salisbury Auto Salvage.
Also on Aug. 8, Muse and Hillsgrove visited NA Nichols near the Lower Millyard area of downtown Amesbury and tried to sell copper there.
Unbeknownst to the suspects, North Hampton police had called police in Amesbury warning them that the suspects may try to off-load copper in their town. Police then called NA Nichols to ask if anyone had tried to sell them copper recently. By that time, the owner of the Electric Barn had already stopped by NA Nichols and identified merchandise belonging to him, according to Amesbury chief of detectives Lt. Jeffrey Worthen.
Muse and Hillsgrove were issued summonses by Amesbury police on Aug. 8 on a charge of receiving stolen property.
Worthen said NA Nichols is a reputable family-owned business that always alerts local police if they notice anything suspicious.
Copper thefts have been far more frequent in recent years, as the nation's unemployment rate remains dangerously high and the overall economic health of the country sputters. Copper prices have risen in concert with the economic downturn, and many hooked on drugs look to the increasingly valuable metal as a way of funding their expensive habits, according to police.
In Newburyport, police arrested three men in February in connection with a string of burglaries at multiple marinas, including Newburyport Boat Works, Newburyport Harbor Marina, Windward Yacht Club, Newburyport Boat Basin and Newburyport Marina.
In those crimes, thieves stripped heavy-duty cables containing copper and then placed the wiring in the back of a pickup truck. An alert Newburyport Marina employee caught the alleged thieves in the act and called police. One suspect was picked up at the scene, while another was arrested hours later at the Park 'n' Ride lot off Storey Avenue. The third suspect turned himself in to police days after his accomplices were arrested. One of the suspects later died of a drug overdose, according to Newburyport District Court records.
Meanwhile, Muse and Grandmaison are already in custody after they were arrested Saturday by North Hampton police and arraigned Monday in Hampton District Court in Seabrook.
Muse was charged with burglary and theft and is being held on $2,500 cash bail. Grandmaison was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and receiving stolen property and is being held on $1,000 cash bail. Both are expected back at Seabrook courthouse on Sept. 6 for a probable cause hearing.
Both were arrested after North Hampton police, accompanied by Rye, N.H., police, executed two arrest warrants at the Shel-Al Mobile Home Park at 115 Lafayette Road. The two are believed to be responsible for at least two separate thefts in April and August at the Electric Barn in North Hampton.
Both Muse and Grandmaison have similar charges pending in Massachusetts stemming from at least one theft in Ipswich. At the time of their arrest, Muse was out on bail for the alleged Ipswich theft while Grandmaison failed to appear in court, according to North Hampton police.
Anyone with information regarding the Electric Barn thefts can call North Hampton police at 603-964-2198. Anonymous tips can be left on the Crimeline for the Hamptons: 603-929-2222.