Thursday, December 4, 2014
Bristol Township man suspected in 11 copper thefts
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014
A suspected copper thief burned himself, literally and figuratively.
Michael A. Gragilla, 30, of Bristol Township, sustained burns to his face and hands after allegedly stealing copper from an electrical pad mount box on PECO property in Springfield Township, Delaware County, in March. Items left behind at the crime scene burned him a second time.
Police lifted DNA from the evidence that came back as a match to Gragilla's, court records show.
The DNA match also pointed to Gragilla as a copper theft suspect in some unsolved Bucks County incidents, police said.
Bensalem police believe that Gragilla caused more than $67,000 worth of property damage over seven months in Bucks and Philadelphia alone during 11 copper thefts between October 2013 and May.
He also faces charges of theft, risking a catastrophe and damaging railroad property in Delaware and Montgomery counties.
In Bucks, Gragilla faces 27 counts of felony theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief. He was arraigned last week before District Judge Leonard Brown and freed after posting $50,000 bail.
Gragilla broke into a Winks Lane warehouse in January, entered an electrical pad mount box, cut the main power supply and removed numerous bags of heavy gauge copper electric supply lines, according to a probable cause affidavit. The suspect also reportedly removed copper from numerous places inside the warehouse including the roof, resulting in $50,000 in damage and loss.
The next month, Northampton police responded to a business on Pulinski Road for a report of a copper wire theft from a transformer box. Again, the main power line was cut and about 140 feet of copper wire taken, resulting in a $10,707 loss, the affidavit said.
Then, in March, police in Delaware County responded to a medical emergency at a Wawa involving a man with electrical burns to his hands and face. The man, identified as Gragilla, was bleeding and not wearing pants, police said.
Gragilla claimed he was injured after he was shocked at his brother’s shop, according to the affidavit.
When police checked, though, they learned Gragilla’s brother’s shop was “quite a distance” from the Wawa and that Gragilla was not working there that day, court documents allege. They also found numerous tools and cutting instruments in his truck.
Less than a half mile away, in Springfield Township, police found a damaged electric pad mount box on a PECO Energy property. The padlock on the box and a secondary wire had been cut; exposed wires inside were still live with 480 volts of electricity, police said.
Also found was a white hard hat with soot on it, charred gloves and a damaged voltage tester next to the open box. Police tested all of the items for DNA.
A voltage tester was also found near a damaged electric pad mount in Northampton and a plastic water bottle was found at the scene of the Bensalem warehouse left, police said. Those items were also swabbed for DNA evidence.
Once police noted that the DNA from the Bensalem, Northampton and Delaware County thefts came from the same person, they obtained a search warrant to collect a DNA sample from Gragilla for comparison and it matched, the affidavit said.
In a subsequent police interview with his lawyer present, Gragilla admitted to being involved in numerous copper thefts in Falls, Bensalem, Warminster, Newtown Township, Warminster, Bristol and Philadelphia, police said.