LAWRENCE — Two Tewksbury brothers pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that they stole copper wire from an Andover train station, and two other men failed to show up for their arraignments in the case.
Dana Nickerson, 26, and Erik Nickerson, 25, 101 McLaren Road, Tewksbury, were released on their own recognizance and ordered to stay away from the Ballardvale commuter rail station where the theft occurred Thursday.
The other two men — Kenneth Paquette, 32, of 157 Andover St., Andover, and Duran McNeill, 24, of 1009 Chandler St., Tewksbury, failed to appear for their arraignment at Lawrence District Court. Warrants were issued for their arrests.
The four men are accused of stealing $2,200 worth of copper wiring from the MBTA power lines by throwing a rope over the lines and tugging them down, according to court documents. None of the men are employed, police said, and they likely stole it to feed a drug habit. One of the men was found with a syringe on him, according to police.
An MBTA worker spotted the men throwing the rope over the wires, and called police. Two more MBTA workers discovered that the men had cut the copper wire that controls the safety gates, rendering them useless, according to police.
The copper wiring operates the switches to the crossing gates, which lower to block traffic when a train approaches.
Police found the four men near Marland Street in Andover — the Nickersons were sitting on the back steps of a Marland Street home and Paquette was found in the backyard. McNeill was found nearby on Tewksbury Street.
According to police, when McNeill was arrested, he said, "OK, you got me," and then asked, "Did you get the others?"
Each of the four are charged with larceny over $250, malicious injury to railroad property and trespassing.
If convicted, they face sentences of up to five years in prison on the theft charge, up to a year on the malicious injury to railroad property charge and 30 days on the trespassing charge.
The Nickersons were ordered to be back in Lawrence District Court on April 24.
Copper thefts have plagued the Merrimack Valley over the past couple of months, with thieves selling it as scrap.
Last month, Haverhill police arrested two men on charges of stealing copper from a Knife Road storage facility. Andover police arrested three people on charges of stealing copper gutters and downspouts from Phillips Academy. And thefts of copper from vacant and foreclosed homes have been a problem in Lawrence.