HAZARD—Two Perry County men were arrested by Perry County deputies this week after they were allegedly caught selling stolen railroad track for scrap metal.
According to the arrest citation, John W. Miller, 33, of Bulan, and Jimmy Barnett, 32, of Hardburly, were using a torch to cut up railroad steel and picking up railroad spikes and plates in Typo Tuesday afternoon. The two men then took the steel to Wright’s Recycling in Hazard to turn it in for cash.
Rick Wright, owner of Wright’s, said the steel brought in by Miller and Barnett was not the normal kind of railroad steel but a smaller rail used inside and around coal mine operations, otherwise his staff would have been more questioning of its origins.
“What they brought in, it was not as tall (as regular railroad steel) and that’s how come my guy accepted it. I never actually seen it when it first come in, I would have been real skeptical but my boy accepted it there in the yard,” Wright said.
Wright said Miller and Barnett came in Tuesday morning to turn the steel in, collecting about $140 for the nearly 20 feet of track.
“It wasn’t a boatload of money,” he said. “It’s a lot to them.”
Later that day, Wright received a call from the sheriff’s office after receipts for the stolen steel had been found in Barnett’s truck after he had been arrested in Hardburly. Wright said when the sheriff came to identify the steel at Wright’s Recycling, Miller pulled into the yard with more material he wanted to sell and was apprehended.
“Jimmy (Miller) had actually, over a year ago, he had worked for me for a little while, and I guess he was hard up for money and just kind of conned that off on us where he had worked for me there for a little while,” Wright said. “I guess he didn’t think nobody would notice. Most of the time you think you can trust somebody, you know.”
Wright said the money his center paid for the steel has not been recovered and likely never will be.
“I always lose on that, anything that’s stolen like that,” he said. “They’ve done got their check in their hand and it’s a little bit late then.”
Since the local economy has taken a turn for the worse in the last few years, Wright said he has seen many more people come in with scrap metal and things to recycle to make some extra cash for groceries or to pay bills. Now, he said, he has to be more careful what he buys from people in case the property is actually stolen.
“I don’t like taking stuff that gives me a black eye,” he said. “I’m here in business and I want to stay in business, and I don’t want to have a reputation of buying stuff like that.”
Miller and Barnett were charged with one count each third-degree criminal trespassing and theft by unlawful taking over $500.