Local man tries to steal piece of border fence

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014 9:23 am

A local man was caught trying to steal a metal beam from the border fence east of Nogales last week.

A Border Patrol agent watched as an unidentified man removed a metal I-beam from a pile of beams set aside for fence repair. The agent then followed the man back to his residence and called the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, according to information provided by the Border Patrol.

The attempted theft occurred on Dec. 20 in a location where the Santa Cruz River crosses the border near the Buena Vista Ranch. The man was asked to return the I-beam and given a warning.

The beams are used in a type of vehicle fence known as a “Normandy barrier,” named after the barriers used to stop Allied forces in the D-Day attack on Nazi-occupied Normandy, France in 1944.

Last week’s attempted theft wasn’t the first time someone tried to steal a piece of the border fence.

Nogales native Jim Price recalled a time when people would cut sections out of the chain-link fence that marked the U.S.-Mexico border several decades ago. “They’d cut big sections and use it for grills in Mexico,” he said with a chuckle. “Back then, it was easy to cut out.”

More recently, a former Air National Guardsman was given a 15-month federal prison sentence in 2010 for stealing and selling 90 tons of scrap metal from a border fence project near Sonoita in 2007 and 2008.

Robert J. Kelley, 50, was found guilty of theft of government property and ordered to pay nearly $43,000 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after his prison term.