Miami Beach streetlight technician accused of stealing copper wire

3 Public Works employees relieved of duty pending internal investigation


Three Miami Beach public works employees have been relieved of duty after one was arrested on grand theft charges.

Manuel Perez, 57, a streetlight technician, was arrested Friday on a second-degree grand theft charge and five counts of secondhand dealer/verification/ownership in the third degree.

City officials said he was relieved of duty Dec. 17 pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

According to an arrest report, the Miami Beach Police Department received a tip that Perez had been regularly stealing copper wire from the city.

Police said Perez would take new spools of wire, beat it with a hammer until it looked used and then would sell it to a metal recycler.

Records from Federal Metals showed that Perez conducted 54 transactions at Federal Metal in 2015 and was paid more than $4,800, the report said.

According to detectives, Perez had been selling insulated copper wire to Federal Metal since 2013 and signed a receipt from the company claiming that he was the rightful owner or entitled to sell the metals that were being sold.

Jorge Fernandez and Gustavo Valbuena, who are also streetlight technicians, have also been relieved of duty pending the outcome of the internal investigation. They could also soon face charges.

"Since I was appointed city manager, it has been my mission to root out corruption and wrongdoing in the administration," Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said. "It is a terrible shame and disservice to the many dedicated men and women of the City of Miami Beach's administration that the actions of these public employees have led to today's action."

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