Accused Cemetery Thieves Caught Scrapping

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SCRANTON -- Police in Scranton say new technology assisted in the arrest of two men in connection with thefts from a cemetery.

Ben Weitsman's scrap yard on North Keyser Avenue in Scranton and many scrap yards in our area keep a very detailed computer record of all their customers and the scrap those customers sell.

It was such a record that identified a suspect this time, but it was the quick thinking of employees that got him in handcuffs.

Earlier this week we showed you Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton, now stripped bare of hundreds of bronze vases at grave markers most recently stolen over Easter weekend.

It's hard to recognize them now, but those bronze vases were cut up and thrown in a container brought to Ben Weitsman Scrap Yard in Scranton.

This week, police say they arrested Erik Zimmerman of Scranton and Robert Krostag of West Pittston when they sold the cut up vases for cash at the scrap yard.

When the pair were first identified as suspects, employees at the scrap yard helped police make one arrest after Zimmerman came onto their yard again on Thursday.

"We saw him down in the metal shop and he had some different items, some copper not the same brass. We stalled him a little bit and called Detective Gilroy. Detective Gilroy rushed over here and picked him up," said Kevin Deet.

Police say Erik Zimmerman is a frequent offender. He's been arrested for stealing scrap metal before.

He's a frequent customer at Ben Weitsman, too. The scrap yard has a new computer catalog of all its customers, their pictures, and pictures of what they sell. The records helped identify Zimmerman and Krostag.

Weitsman's has bought 1.2 million pounds of scrap metal in the first five days in April alone. The new computer system helped find 200 pounds of bronze that was stolen. They say it's a lot like finding a needle in a haystack.

Employees say many scrap thieves melt or cut up the metal they steal, that's why many are never caught. They were especially happy to catch two accused of stealing from a cemetery because they give other scrappers a bad rap.

"I really didn't know what to think. I didn't think he would bring them here. And like stealing from a cemetery, that's pretty low, I'd say," said Justin Cotter.

"There's a lot of scrappers that are doing well, they're scrapping legally. They're getting a living. And then you get a gentleman like this that gets all of us into hot water," Deet added.

Both of the men accused of stealing from Cathedral Cemetery have been in trouble for selling stolen scrap before.

Erik Zimmerman was arrested several months ago for stealing scrap from vacant houses.

Robert Krostag was arrested last year for stealing bronze vases from a cemetery in Luzerne County.