For thieves on the lookout for copper wiring to steal, it was a gold mine.
The closed Palm Beach Co. sewing factory in Danville had copper electrical wiring strung throughout its three floors.
On Wednesday, two people were arrested on charges related to entering the shuttered plant and taking the wiring, Boyle County Sheriff Marty Elliott said.
Elliott, a former industrial electrician, estimated that it would take "easily" $500,000 or more to replace the wiring.
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"This is the biggest copper theft I've ever seen," Elliott said.
The two people arrested were Dustin Fifer, 21, of Junction City, and his girlfriend, Ashley Watters, 18, of Stanford. Each was charged with 10 counts of third-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking over $10,000.
More charges are pending, Elliott said, and he suspects that more people will be charged.
Elliott, whose department learned of the theft through a tip, said the wiring was taken out of the building over a period of six weeks. Elliott said Fifer would work inside the plant "during the daylight hours because he was afraid he would be seen at night. He's admitted to doing it at least 10 times."
Fifer allegedly sold the wiring at three scrap yards in Danville, Nicholasville and Lincoln County, Elliott said. While the wire wasn't originally sold for $500,000, Elliott said it would have certainly been worth thousands of dollars.
"We have receipts where he sold it for like $600 and $400 in scrap yards," Elliott said.
The factory, which made men's coats, opened in 1937 as Goodall Industries and closed in 1987. At the time of the closing it employed 400 people.
In 1989, Sammi Sound Technology Inc. bought the building to assemble loudspeakers. It was the first Korean manufacturer to come to Kentucky. Sammi Sound sold the operation in 1998.
At one time, a group of investors announced plans to turn the factory into an assisted living center, but that didn't happen.
Elliott said he has not been able to contact the building's owners. "We've made phone calls to people, but they've never called us back," he said.
Fifer was also charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and fleeing and evading.
Fifer and Watters remained in the Boyle County jail Thursday in lieu of $65,000 and $50,000 cash bonds, respectively.