A Bettendorf, Iowa, couple faces felony theft charges after stealing a $6,000 welder from the I-74 Mississippi River crossing project.
Bill Fifer, 64, and Emma Stephenson, 24, told police they were looking for scrap metal to collect when they found a blue Miller Bobcat 250 welder shortly before 1:30 a.m. on March 7, according to a Bettendorf, Iowa, police department affidavit.
The welder belonged to Helm Civil, working as contractor on the $1.2-billion I-74 bridge construction project. The pair used a flatbed truck to steal the welder and cut two welding cables being used for work on the underside of the bridge project in the process.
Iowa Dept. of Transportation and City of Bettendorf traffic cameras caught the theft on video and captured images of license plates on two different trucks owned by Fifer that the pair used to investigate the site and then steal the welder, according to the affidavit. Helm said a second welder was sent to the site the morning after the theft was discovered and no work was missed. It said having security cameras with high resolution was key to recovering the lost welder the next day at the home of a relative of Fifer in nearby Davenport, Iowa,
"We always have this problem when the price of scrap goes up, where it is now," says Brian Helm, president and CEO of Helm Group. "We don't usually have equipment being stolen, but it was about four to six years ago when scrap was also high that we had this same type of problem. I'm a little surprised that it happened ... there were enough cameras around that they were able to track it down. So, yeah, so this was a particularly bad one."
Fifer faces a felony charge of second-degree theft and misdemeanor charges of drug possession and possession of burglary tools and is being held in Scott County Jail. He is set to appear in Scott County Court on June 17. Stephenson faces a felony charge of second-degree theft and a misdemeanor charge of possession of burglary tools.