Edwardsburg metal thief facing up to life in prison
CASSOPOLIS — A band of scrap metal thieves was no match for a solo off-duty police officer last April in Milton Township, Cass County.
And now the leader of the band will pay a heavy price — up to life in prison.
A Cass County Circuit Court Jury needed only 15 minutes Wednesday to establish the guilt of Anthony Cox, 57, of Edwardsburg, on all pending counts—including the top charge of breaking and entering.
Because the Cass County Prosecutors Office charged the scrap metal thief as a fourth habitual offender, his possible penalty increases to life or any term of years. The defendant has multiple theft-related prior felonies.
The one-day prosecution was orchestrated by Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle. Her trial score revealed that on April 21, 2012 the defendant went to South Bend, Ind., and put together a band of at least four persons, including at least two homeless men. These recruits assisted in the scrapping of a residence located in Milton Township.
The defendant coaxed the homeless participants into action with a case of beer.
Upon arrival at the Milton Township address, the defendant and his cohorts promptly broke into an attached garage and entered the home. Once inside, they set to stripping the residence of iron and alloys.
Unfortunately for the touring scrappers, an off-duty Michigan State Police Detective, Fabian Suarez, was passing through the area.
As the defendant and the other thieves were completing their gut of the property, the plain-clothed detective approached them. He saw an abundance of metal items in the bed of the defendant’s pick-up truck, including a kitchen stove. Sensing something amiss, Suarez identified himself and asked what they were doing.
The defendant quickly played his accelerator, speeding off and leaving his entourage behind. Other players followed tune and promptly harmonized into the surrounding countryside.
Suarez, however, caught the license plate as the defendant sped away from the crime staging area.
The two homeless men remained behind and cooperated with the ensuing investigation.
Suarez traced the plate and two days later located the defendant at his residence hideout. Despite convincing his mother to lie for him, Suarez ferreted Cox out of the home and arrested him. The defendant denied ever being at the scrapping scene, but later claimed he had actually returned the metal valuables.
The stolen property has not been recovered.
The jury began and completed its deliberations late Wednesday afternoon. In addition to breaking and entering, they also found the defendant guilty of larceny in a building, conspiracy to break and enter, conspiracy to commit larceny in a building and driving without a valid license.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said, “Scrap metal crime will not be tolerated in our community. This defendant has seriously compromised his future through these disturbing acts of thievery.
“Fortunately, Michigan has become a ‘heavy price’ locale for captured metal thieves. Our executive branch and legislature have strengthened criminal scrap metal laws in recent years. Additional enforcement enhancements are under consideration.”
The Michigan State Police investigation concerning the remaining scrap-band members continues.
Cox will be sentenced in front of Judge Michael Dodge on Friday, June 21.