Suspected copper thieves caught in act at Blue Rhino propane plant



TAVARES, Fla. - Four accused copper thieves are jailed in Lake County on Wednesday after they were found on the grounds of the Blue Rhino propane depot in Tavares.

No trespassing signs are evident on the fences around the propane depot, and the signs say violators will be prosecuted.

"They have a plan in place that is very comprehensive.  And this is a good example of how it works," said Joyce Ross with the city of Tavares.

About 4 a.m. Wednesday, Blue Rhino employees watching monitors connected to the company's security cameras saw the men get through the fence and take copper valves off the small propane tanks.

Police from three local towns quickly responded to a 911 call and rounded up the suspected thieves.

One of the suspects, 29-year-old Javier Escobar, had been fired by Blue Rhino the day before, authorities said.

In July 1013, the plant made headlines when explosions sent thousands of tanks flying.  Eight workers were injured and the blast caused more than $3 million in damage.

Since then, new safety procedures are in place and police believe stepped up security helped them catch the accused thieves.