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Modesto Man Sentenced To Prison For Modesto Airport Copper Wire Theft

On August 6, 2012, Robin Neal Vanderheiden, aka Jeremy Wayne Patrick, 32, of Modesto, California, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Fresno, California, to serve 16 months in prison for conspiring to steal 2,800 feet of copper cable from the Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System (MIALS) at the Modesto Airport.  Vanderheiden was also ordered to pay $60,000 to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the damage caused to the Modesto Airport.

OIG began its investigation based on a referral from FAA alleging vandalism to the airport approach lighting system at the Modesto Airport.  Working jointly with OIG, the Modesto Police Department installed surveillance cameras which led to Vanderheiden, who used the alias Jeremy Patrick.  OIG and the Modesto Police Department subsequently interviewed Vanderheiden, who confessed to the theft of copper cable and implicated his co-conspirator, Kody Estepp.   

The investigation determined that on several occasions in January 2012, Vanderheiden and Estepp broke into lighting towers at the Modesto Airport and stole copper wire from the enclosed systems. They then sold the stolen copper wire in return for cash or illegal narcotics. The theft of the copper cable caused the approach lighting to become inoperable, which posed a significant safety risk to incoming aircraft and neighboring residents, and without the MIALS, aircraft may need to be diverted.

OIG conducted this case jointly with the Modesto Police Department, with assistance provided by the FAA.