PHILADELPHIA (WTXF)- Authorities say they now have two men in custody who are believed to be involved in propane tank thefts from businesses in the Torresdale and Frankford neighborhoods over the past two weeks.
Northeast Detective Division has now identified and arrested 38-year-old John Ploucher in connection with the thefts. Last week, 49-year-old Stephan Williams was also arrested for his involvement in multiple thefts of propane tanks.
Authorities say they recovered two vehicles as well as a number of propane tanks. Sources say this is not believed to be connected to terrorism, rather, the men are believed to be scrapers.
It's the type of bold, aggressive theft that had cops and city business owners scratching their heads.
"These guys were agile, limber and strong to move this stuff," said Philadelphia Police Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum. “When you have tanks of this size and that amount of fuel there may be a sinister reason why they would use the fuel. We're trying to cover our bases to make sure there isn't something going we didn't know about”
Police say on December 17th, the thieves moved in under the cover of darkness but in plain-sight of security cameras. The first theft happened at 4720 Pennypack at James Morrissey Construction, which is a road contractor. Police say the suspects scaled a 7-foot high enclosure and hauled-off a dozen propane tanks. Five of them able to hold 100 pounds, according to investigators.
The suspects moved onto 2300 Church Street to Praxair Welding Gas and Supply Center where they muscle more tanks into waiting vehicles, police say. According to police, they hit Praxair again on December 22nd. The total haul was 43 propane tanks--some empty--some not, according to investigators.
Police say security at the companies was pretty good.
“They do their due diligence at security but when people are cutting their fences down and driving through them--it's an issue,” said Lt. Rosenbaum.,
A worker at Morrissey Construction says he hasn't seen propane thefts in over 30 years in the business. He says their tanks have been moved to a new location and they are on the lookout for those bold thieves.
Williams and Ploucher are both charged with: Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Mischief and related offenses. The investigation is ongoing.