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Houston man jailed for thefts from railroad yard near his home

By Stephen Dean

February 12, 2011

(Houston) – A Houston man is locked up, accused of swiping copper parts from a railroad yard on the end of his northeast Houston street.

Houston Police cracked the case after a Crimestoppers tip that reported a man was swiping valuable metal from Union Pacific's Pierce Yard on Hirsch Road.

Marc Anthony Coleman, 48, is charged with felony Copper Theft. He's jailed pending arraignment next month.

Police say he grabbed copper buss bars and other heavy duty bolts from the Pierce Yard and then sold them to several scrap metal yards, where copper is commanding premium dollars.

The arrest resulted from some good old fashioned police work.

HPD Officer C. W. Stivers knocked on Coleman's door after getting the Crimestoppers tip, asking him questions about the tip. The officer asked whether he knew anything about metal stolen from the nearby Pierce Yard, but Coleman said he didn't. The officer asked Coleman whether he had been selling any copper to scrap metal yards in Houston, and again Coleman said he hadn't. Police required Coleman to show them his identification and they quickly went to work on a computer search, using LeadsOnline (www.leadsonline.com) and they found out Coleman's name was attached to several recent sales of copper to various scrape metal businesses.

Since copper rip-offs have grown so costly and common, all metal dealers are required to log specifics about everything they buy. Those scrap yards have to record the driver's license information of everyone who sells them metal, along with descriptions and pictures of certain types of metal. The details of those transactions are entered into the LeadsOnline database that officers can access when they're investigating any kind of theft. They even have to collect fingerprints from many sellers.

According to court records, LeadsOnline data showed that Coleman had sold 28 different items to scrap metal businesses, including copper wire and four copper buss bars that weighed in at 69-pounds between March and August 2010. Officer Stivers then visited the scrap yard, Dollar Metal and Recycling on Hirsch Road, where police say photos of what Coleman sold them were attached to some of the receipts from those sales.

HPD showed some of the pictures to Union Pacific Railroad police and they confirmed that the copper came from power generating equipment near the wheels of locomotives.

At the Pierce Yard, Union Pacific said it parks several locomotives there in various stages of repair, including some locomotives that are not operational so that their parts can be used on other working engines.

The railroad police officer said the buss bars and various bolts are very unique to train locomotives, so he had no trouble identifying them from the pictures.

Police tallied up all the different pictures and descriptions and then confronted Coleman again, but he again denied knowing anything about the copper wire and bus bars. Again, according to court records, he said he'd never seen anything like the copper in the pictures that police now had in their possession, and he denied that he had sold it to the scrap yards.

Finally, police got the fingerprints from the scrap metal business and each fingerprint from those sales matched Coleman's. It was an easy match to make since he had been arrested several times in the past.

Coleman spent 12-months in the Harris County Jail for stealing a car in May 2001, and he also has convictions for drugs and criminal mischief. The yellow home where Coleman was arrested is two houses away from the Pierce Yard. There is no fencing so it's an easy walk from the rail yard to his home. Trains pass through various sections of tracks that switch in that yard, some heading east and west and one leg branching off to the north from that yard. Coleman remains jailed and is scheduled to be arraigned in the 177th Harris County District Court on March 8th.

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