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No jail time for ex-Port Coquitlam city worker who pleaded guilty to copper theft

Click to play video: 'Port Coquitlam city employees fired for alleged copper theft' Port Coquitlam city employees fired for alleged copper theft
A bizarre story out of Port Coquitlam, where seven city employees have been fired for allegedly operating a copper theft scheme for the past 10 years. – Jul 12, 2018

A former Port Coquitlam city worker who pleaded guilty to stealing and selling copper piping will not see jail time after being sentenced this week.

Harold Lewis received an absolute discharge in Port Coquitlam provincial court Thursday, meaning he won’t have to follow conditions or probation and will not have a registered conviction.

Lewis was among seven public works employees who were fired in July 2018 over allegations the city said stretched back over a decade.

According to the city, the alleged thieves took the materials and later resold them for what it “conservatively” estimates as $75,000.

The city claims that individual participants in the scheme pocketed anywhere from $100 to $10,000 each for their role.

READ MORE: 7 City of Port Coquitlam staff fired over alleged decade-spanning copper theft scheme

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Lewis was charged with theft under $5,000, which he pleaded guilty to last month. He was the only one of the seven fired workers to be criminally charged.

In a statement Saturday, the city said Lewis also issued a written apology to his former employer and repaid his earnings from the sale of the stolen piping.

“We would like to assure our residents that this situation does not represent the character and commitment of the vast majority of Port Coquitlam’s staff,” the statement reads.

CUPE Local 498, the union that represents Port Coquitlam city workers, filed grievances against the city in an effort to get the workers rehired. Lewis dropped his grievance after pleading guilty.

In a statement, the union said it is still waiting for decisions on the other six grievances, adding it was pleased with the court’s decision.

READ MORE: Port Coquitlam workers fired for allegedly stealing copper file grievance

“CUPE Local 498 members go above and beyond to serve the people of Port Coquitlam,” the union said.

“We are disappointed that city management continues to claim, publicly, that our members engaged in a ‘longstanding and coordinated scheme to steal from the City,'” they added, pointing out no other workers were charged.

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The city says it has taken steps to ensure similar thefts don’t happen again, including reducing copper use, separating disposed copper from other metals and keeping it in a secure area.

Fraud awareness training is also being provided to city managers, while the city has reviewed its conflict of interest policies and conducted ethics training for all employees.

“We have learned from this and continue to strive to grow as an organization,” the city said.

—With files from Simon Little

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