Man behind state's largest metal theft sentenced to 12 years

SEATTLE -- The man convicted in what may have been the largest metal theft in Washington State history was sentenced Friday to more than 12 years in prison.

Donald Turpin was convicted last month of burglary, theft, trafficking in stolen property and leading organized crime for stealing 70,000 pounds of copper wiring from Sound Transit Light Rail tracks.

Prosecutors say Turpin and his accomplice, Lee Skelly, methodically snuck into a crawl space beneath the light rail tracks between the Tukwila station and the Boeing Access Road, clipping 70,000 pounds of copper wire over a four-mile run, and dropping it to the ground in segments for midnight pickups.

The thefts went on for nine months, going undetected because the wire they stole didn't carry an electric current.

Turpin was identified through DNA left on items, including Gatorade bottles, found inside the tunnels.

Turpin used a state-issued business license to scrap the copper with relative ease, earning himself approximately $50,000 in profits. According to the King County Prosecutor's Office, the copper wire was worth more than $200,000 and would cost approximately $1.3 million to replace.

On Friday, a judge sentenced Turpin to a total of 149 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1,329,050 in restitution to Sound Transit Treasury.