Apr. 7—EAU CLAIRE — An Eau Claire man, accused by authorities of stealing 2,000 feet of power cord and a large amount of copper wire on two occasions in January 2020 from a town of Union business, will spend four years on probation.
The value of the thefts and damage caused by the man reached about $30,000, authorities say.
Matthew W. Gheer, 29, 1123 Pershing St., pleaded guilty Wednesday in Eau Claire County Court to felony counts of theft, criminal damage to property and burglary, and unrelated felony counts of theft, conspiracy to commit delivery of methamphetamine and methamphetamine delivery.
Judge John Manydeeds gave Gheer the option of spending 30 days in jail or performing 240 hours of community service.
As conditions of probation, Gheer must pay restitution, the amount of which will be determined within 60 days. He must also maintain absolute sobriety, undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and any recommended programming or treatment, and have no contact with the victims or known drug dealers or users.
According to the criminal complaint:
An Eau Claire County sheriff's deputy was sent Jan. 28, 2020, to Haas Redi-Mix on Town Hall Road in the town of Union because someone had cut electrical cords from conveyor machinery the previous night.
About 2,000 feet of cord were cut from five pieces of machinery. It appeared a pickup truck and trailer were used to haul away the cord. The suspect left three propane tanks, an ATV tire and a lighter near the machines that were damaged.
Pictures of some of the cord left behind by the suspect were sent to area scrap and recycling centers.
An employee said he would stay overnight to see if the suspect returned.
On Jan. 30, 2020, a Haas Redi-Mix employee saw a dark-colored pickup truck pulling a trailer arrive on the property at 4:35 a.m.
The male driver went to a pile of wire located in an outbuilding.
The driver exited the truck, disappeared for 30 seconds, and came back carrying a large amount of copper wiring. He placed the wire into the trailer and left the business.
Using video from a nearby Kwik Trip, deputies were able to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle as Gheer.
Deputies pulled the vehicle over Feb. 6, 2020, at Hastings Way and Birch Street for not having a front license plate. Gheer was taken into custody and transported to the Eau Claire County Jail. Gheer told a deputy scrapping was his form of employment.
Gheer said he took catalytic converters that were sitting by a dumpster at a location near Elk Mound. He said he also took a pile of copper that was sitting behind a shed Jan. 30, 2020, at the Haas Redi-Mix plant.
A Feb. 11, 2020, search warrant executed at Gheer's residence recovered items consistent with what was stolen from the Haas plant.