Two men and a woman were charged with felony theft for their involvement in a backbreaking mission - stealing more than 20 Lake Zurich-area manhole covers, police said Friday.
Ruth M. Driscoll, 21, Timothy E. Munts, 22, both of the 23300 block of Lakewood Lane, and Craig R. Scarton, 25, of the 23100 block of N. Lakewood Lane, in unincorporated Lake County, were arrested in connection with the theft of 23 manhole covers, police said.
The arrests took place early Wednesday morning after Lake Zurich police officers received several reports of missing manhole covers, Cmdr. Kevin Finlon said.
Police spotted a suspicious car at 1:45 a.m. in the 100 block of Parkway in Lake Zurich and discovered the trio hiding inside with five manhole covers in the trunk. The rest of the covers were later recovered in the suspects' homes, police say.
Police believe the suspects were planning to resell the stolen metal at a scrap yard, a crime that is becoming more common in this economy.
"Any type of scrap metal is a recurring item with thefts right now," Finlon said.
Copper, increasing in value, is one of the hottest stolen metals right now. Copper fetches $3.30 a pound and is most commonly targeted at construction sites. Aluminum lands about $1 a pound.
Cast iron manhole covers won't get you much bang for your backache.
Authorities estimate cast iron is worth 2 to 6 cents a pound. The heavy covers range from 50 to 100 pounds. So a manhole cover would net $1 to $6.
Most area scrap yards, including Rondout Iron and Metal Co. in Lake Bluff, do not accept manhole covers because of the high likelihood the pieces are stolen.
"If it's stolen stuff, I won't take it," said Bob Conroy, owner of Elgin Recycling and three other locations, including one in Deer Park. Like at many metal yards, Conroy scans the driver's license of people selling him various metals. "I work closely with police," Conroy said.
While the manhole covers would not bring thieves a lot of cash, it's something in tough economic times.
"I guess if you don't have a job and you have to eat, it's something," Conroy said.