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California Men Pled Guilty to Conspiring to Steal Copper Wires from Modesto Airport

On May 14, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Fresno, California, Kody Esstep and Robin Vanderheiden, both residents of Modesto, California, pled guilty to the theft of Government property and conspiracy.  In a plea agreement, Mr. Esstep and Mr. Vanderheiden admitted they stole approximately 2,800 feet of copper cable from the Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System (MIALS) at Modesto Airport.

Although the damage to the airport is valued at more than $40,000, 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.  The lights are needed for poor visibility situations, such as fog and heavy rain, and without the MIALS, aircraft may need to be diverted.

The investigation was initiated following a report of vandalism of the airport approach lighting system.  Modesto Police Department subsequently put up surveillance cameras which led them to Mr. Vanderheiden, who used the alias Jeremy Patrick.  OIG subsequently interviewed Mr. Vanderheiden, who confessed to the theft of copper cable and implicated Mr. Esstep.

This investigation was conducted with assistance from the Modesto Police Department and FAA.