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Alleged Connecticut copper thief faces multiple larceny charges

Police in Manchester recently arrested a 30-year-old man for stealing copper from a Connecticut church. The missing metal downspouts and flashing, allegedly taken during three separate occasions in December and January, caused chaos during a church service. Parishioners rushed to contain damage caused by water gushing through the ceiling into St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

Police narrowed down their search by visiting area scrap dealers after the thefts. Investigators discovered one customer cashed in on copper scraps worth $1,200. Damage to the church totaled $21,000.

The defendant was arrested and charged with failure to appear, criminal mischief, third-degree burglary and second-, third- and sixth-degree larceny offenses. Bond was set at more than $157,000. At the time news reports were filed, the man was awaiting a court appearance.

Larceny and theft are interchangeable terms under Connecticut laws. The severity of larceny charges depends upon the market value of the stolen property – the retail price, not the owner's claimed value. State laws break down larceny crimes into half a dozen degrees in a worst-is-first order -- sixth-degree larceny involves theft of property valued at less than $500 while first-degree larceny involves property worth more than $20,000.

To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must show the defendant wrongfully acquired property in order to deprive the owner of the goods or services for personal gain. Proof of the property's value must support the severity of the seriousness of the larceny charge. A conviction is not possible unless a defendant confesses to the crime or a jury is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant stole valuable property.

When evidence of theft is convincing, criminal defense lawyers may not be able to help defendants avoid all charges. However, challenges to the severity of the charge can be made over the property value. When larceny charges are reduced so are the chances for serious consequences following a possible conviction.

Source: NBC Connecticut, "Suspect in Manchester Church Copper Theft Arrested" Mar. 20, 2015

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