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Copper thieves cop pleas in Grand Forks caper

Two men charged with stealing $75,000 or more of copper wire from a Grand Forks business last spring have reached plea deals with prosecutors that include one of them ordered to pay about $75,000 in restitution.

Two men charged with stealing $75,000 or more of copper wire from a Grand Forks business last spring have reached plea deals with prosecutors that include one of them ordered to pay about $75,000 in restitution.

The two also have copped deals in two similar copper capers in the Fargo area last year and officials from Grand Forks and Cass counties are designing the plea deals to include concurrent jail time including all three burglaries.

Prosecutors say Elvis Hasimovic, 29, and Sabastijan Tahirovic, 21, rented a U-Haul truck in Fargo, drove to Grand Forks, broke into the Dakota Supply Group building in the city's west-side Industrial Park during the dark early hours of March 4.

Company officials said the pair got away with about $110,000 worth of copper wire in spools and other copper products from the wholesaler that supplies building contractors in the region. Grand Forks police pegged the value of the stolen goods at $75,000 in the charging documents.

Both men also were charged about the same time with two similar copper thefts in the Fargo area, at another Dakota Supply Group warehouse and at a Fargo Electric building.

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Hasimovic has a criminal record of felonies, mostly theft-related, going back several years in North Dakota and initially would not talk to investigators.

Tahirovic did talk, saying he waited in the truck in Grand Forks while Hasimovic expertly used the warehouse's forklift to load copper spools into the rental truck. Dakota Supply employees said it was clear the thieves knew the best stuff to take.

The two drove back to Fargo, Hasimovic dropped off his younger colleague in crime, then drove to Chicago to peddle the copper on the black market, Tahirovic told investigators.

Sentencing set

Dakota Supply officials, and others in the industry, say it's difficult or impossible to track such stolen copper or later identify it as goods from a particular burglary.

In documents filed this week in state district court in Grand Forks, prosecutors reveal how they are handling the two men differently in the plea deals.

Tahirovic agreed to plead guilty to a Class C felony count of conspiring to burglarize the place, and prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious Class B felony count of conspiring to commit theft.

At a sentencing hearing Feb. 24, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of a year in jail with 296 days suspended and credit for 69 days he's already served, plus three years of supervised probation, $500 in court fees and fines and payment of $6,059 in restitution to the warehouse, apparently damages done to the doors. Hasimovic is jointly responsible for paying that restitution.

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Hasimovic, meanwhile, agreed to plead guilty to both felony counts, one with a top sentence of 10 years possible, the other with a max of five years; and to pay $72,270 in restitution to the Harleysville Insurance Co., which apparently paid Dakota Supply Group for its copper loss.

He was sentenced this week to a year in jail, with 305 days suspended and to serve the 60 remaining days in Cass County jail, concurrent with jail time there from the two Fargo cases. Hasimovic also will be on supervised probation for five years and equally responsible for the $6,069 in damages restitution with Tahirovic.

Luis Perez, 35, of Moorhead, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Hasimovic and Tahirovic in one of the Fargo copper thefts.

Tahirovic also was sentenced for an earlier copper theft at Rick Electric in Moorhead.

The Dakota Supply Group warehouses in Grand Forks and Fargo reported the total value of the copper and other products taken in the two burglaries was about $250,000.

The stores had no alarms or security cameras, but company officials announced last fall they had installed such measures in all of their 25 stores in the region.

Near-record copper prices in recent years have sparked a run of such thefts across the region.

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