San Antonio power company is after thieving 'Chupa-Cobre'


by Joe Conger / KENS 5

Bio | Email | Follow: @joe_conger

Posted on November 14, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 14 at 6:41 PM

SAN ANTONIO –The ambiance at Mi Tierra restaurant is as meticulous as the pastries in its bakery. Brightly-colored LED lights adorn the walls and ceilings of the downtown tourist spot. And electricity plays a big part.

“The atmosphere is important: the piñatas and the lighting, of course!” laughs Eusebio Trujillo, the purchasing director for the restaurant.

All those lights are important, and Trujillo took notice two weeks ago when someone pretending to be from CPS Energy called about shutting the power off.

“They immediately tell them the line that you’re behind on your CPS bill and your services are going to be cut tonight if you don’t pay up tonight,” said Trujillo.

CPS Energy officials said ‘tis the season for impostors who pretend to be employees, going door-to-door to gain entrance into unsuspecting homes. Other thieves call random businesses like Mi Tierra, hoping someone falls for their fraud.

Trujillo added, “They are real persistent of wanting payment over the phone immediately.”

CPS Energy said it is also the season for copper theft. The company reports the metal is ripped out of substations and power poles at least three times a week.

Bexar County deputies reportedly arrested a copper thief last week, and this year prosecutors brought three copper-theft cases to trial. All three individuals received probationary sentences.

CPS Energy officials say all that crime ends up costing rate-payers more than $1.5 million a year.

So, the public utility is stepping up efforts to combat it with a campaign of “wanted posters.” Colorful monsters with names like “The impostor,” “Energy Thief” and “Chupa-Cobre” warn customers of the potential ways criminals can defraud.

The bilingual posters may look a little silly, but the message is serious. Stolen copper and stolen energy can damage gas lines, valves, and electric wiring.

Maria Koudouris with CPS Energy said, “More importantly, they (thieves) create a potentially deadly risk for CPS Energy employees, first-responders and innocent people who are nearby.”

CPS Energy said never go near a vandalized meter. Instead, call (210) 353-HOTT (4688).

If you witness copper theft in progress, it needs to be reported to law enforcement and to CPS Energy at (210) 353-4000.