Fort Mill man charged in Harris Teeter copper theft

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 21, 2013 

Deputies caught an accused copper thief in action on the roof of the Harris Teeter on Stockbridge Drive in Fort Mill around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

After breaking off a “big piece of copper pipe,” Robert Ralph Vecchio, 49, of Fort Mill, climbed down from the grocery’s store roof and a deputy arrested him, according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report.

By the time Vecchio was caught, about $30,000 in damage was already done to the store’s cooling unit, the report states.

Wednesday was the second time in less than one week the store has been hit by precious metal thieves.

Another police report, from Monday, states that copper piping was stolen from the roof sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning.

When the thief cut the pipe, about 1,000 pounds of freon escaped from the cooling unit, according to the report.

The damage knocked out the store’s refrigeration system around 10 p.m. Sunday, the report states.

Tega Cay’s Michael Lounsbury was in the store as a “whole bunch of people scrambled” to wrap plastic around cold freezer sections of the store, he said.

Someone stole copper, knocking out the store’s refrigeration system, an employee told Lounsbury.

“It shows disrespect for society,” Lounsbury said of the copper theft.

“Someone has to eat that charge or loss somewhere ... it’s the community that has to pay for it.”

A Harris Teeter media representative in Charlotte did not respond to The Herald’s e-mail request for information on economic damage to the store as a result of the theft.

The sheriff’s office has not yet determined whether Vecchio is responsible for the Monday copper theft at the Harris Teeter, said Kim Morehouse, spokeswoman.

Vecchio told deputies on Wednesday that “he had heard about the spot and wanted to make fast cash so he went up there to steal some copper,” according to the sheriff’s office report.

Deputies found a yellow hacksaw on the Harris Teeter roof, the report states.

Inside Vecchio’s car parked behind the store, deputies found a receipt from “E-Metals Scrap Yard,” according to the report.

Vecchio’s bond has been set at $51,940.

By late Friday afternoon, Vecchio was being held at the Moss Justice Detention Center in York on two counts of petty larceny, two counts of possession of tools capable of being used in a crime and two counts of malicious injury to real property valued at more than $10,000, according to the sheriff’s office website.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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