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Federal indictment: Man knocked Pittsburg radio station off air by cutting copper wiring

Like many radio stations across the state, Pittsburg’s KKOW deals with damage caused by copper thieves several times a year.

But Jerry Tibbetts, the station’s engineer, hadn’t seen damage like what happened in early September when someone pulled down a power pole, ripping out the lines that provided electricity to the station’s transmitter tower, plus damaging two other power poles.

“We’ve had copper stolen before,” Tibbetts said Wednesday, “but no one has wrapped a rope around a pole. He just hooked it to his pickup and pulled it down.”

As a result, two radio stations were knocked off the air. KKOW was off about 36 hours and KRPS, Pittsburg State University’s station, was off a little less. A Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative pole was also badly damaged, resulting in a power outage.

Jeffrey L. Blake, 39, of Scammon, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Wichita on charges he knocked KKOW off the air by cutting copper wiring from the transmitter tower. He is charged with one count of attempted damage to a communications system and one count of attempted damage to an energy facility, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

The indictment alleges that on Sept. 7, Blake damaged equipment used by KKOW, which serves as part of the Emergency Alert System, a national public warning system. Damage to KRPS’s equipment wasn’t included in the federal charges because that station isn’t part of the national warning system.

The incident happened a little after midnight when Heartland learned about the power outage. Blake was arrested about 3:30 a.m. by Cherokee County Sheriff deputies after they responded to a call about a possible theft in progress at a home north of Columbus and not far from the transmitter tower, the Pittsburg Sun reported in citing the sheriff’s account.

It’s not known if Blake faces charges other than the federal ones.

The cost of damage incurred by KKOW was about $6,000, Tibbetts said.

If convicted on the federal charges, Blake faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the charge of attempting to damage an energy facility and a maximum of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the charge of attempting to damage a communications facility.

Other indictments returned Tuesday by the grand jury meeting in Wichita:

•  Timothy David Seifert, 67, Bethlehem, Pa., is charged with one count of bank robbery. The indictment alleges that on Oct. 28 he robbed the Farmers & Merchants Bank in Colby.



•  Jacob W. Schrock, 27, Lyons, is charged with one count of bank armed robbery, one count of attempted bank burglary, one count of brandishing a sawed-off shotgun during a bank robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun. The indictment alleges that on Sept. 13 Schrock robbed the Citizens Bank of Arlington and on the same day he attempted to burglarize the Hutchinson Credit Union.



•  Brandon W. Dennis, 25, Wichita, is charged with two counts of attempted sex trafficking of children. In one count, the victim is a 17-year-old Wichita girl. In the other case, the victim is identified as “Rissa,” the name used by a Wichita police detective who was posing as a 15-year-old girl.



•  Daniel L. Branstetter, 42, Wichita, is charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. The crimes are alleged to have occurred July 23, 2010, in Sedgwick County.



•  Kip Elmer Mason, 46, Hutchinson, is charged with failing to register as a sex offender as required by federal law. The crime is alleged to have occurred August to October. The indictment alleges he was convicted in 2006 in Wisconsin on a charge of sexually assaulting a child.



•  Rafael Aldofo-Gomez, 27, El Salvador, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being deported. He was found Oct. 24 in Meade County.



•  Misael Gonzalez-Ramirez, 33, Mexico, is charged with unlawfully transporting 12 illegal immigrants from Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico within the United States. He also is charged with one count of unlawfully re-entering this country after being deported. He was found Oct. 24 in Meade County.



• Levardo Castill-Gonzales, 32, Mexico, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being convicted of an aggravated felony and deported. He was found Oct. 21 in Sedgwick County.



•  Jesus Olivas-Zea, 35, Mexico, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being convicted of a felony and deported. He was found Oct. 21 in Sedgwick County.



•  Juan Manuel Araujo-Gutierrez, 26, Hutchinson, is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by an illegal immigrant, one count of possession of false documents, three counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of making a false written statement to the government and one count of misusing a Social Security number. The crimes are alleged to have occurred in 2009 and 2011 in Hutchinson.



•  Manuel Saenz-Licon, 42, Salina, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being deported. He was found Oct. 28 in Saline County.



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