Kyle Watts, above left, and his son Matthew shown in their Whitley County Detention Center jail mugshots.
A Corbin father and his son were arrested Monday for their role in the theft of expensive batteries stolen from natural gas wells in West Virginia.
Corbin Police Detective Rusty Hedrick said that local authorities got a call that was a little out of the ordinary Monday asking for their assistance. The criminal investigative division of Chesapeake Energy had traced four specialized batteries, stolen from rural natural gas wells in West Virginia earlier this month, to a residence on Highland Ave. in Corbin. They wanted local police to check out the situation.
When officers arrived at 151 Highland Ave. late Monday night, a search of the home quickly let to discovery of the batteries.
Three were found inside a pickup truck belonging to 40-year-old Matthew Watts, of Corbin. Another was located connected to a battery charger in Watt’s garage.
Investigators with Chesapeake Energy said they had spoken with Watts’ father, 76-year-old Kyle Watts, at his home in West Virginia earlier in the week about the missing batteries prior to Monday’s arrests.
Hedrick said both father and son were in Corbin when police searched the home Monday.
"They were acting as if they had no knowledge of where the batteries came from," Hedrick said. "The father was very uncooperative. The son finally said he didn’t steal them, but he may know who did. He gave us a couple juveniles names that ride four-wheelers around and are known to steal these items."
Authorities value the batteries at over $1,000.
Matthew and Kyle Watts were charged with receiving stolen property under $10,000 and lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center. They remained behind bars as of press time Tuesday on $5,000 fully secured bonds. They are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 3, 2012.
Chesapeake officials say the batteries are an integral part of their production capabilities at natural gas and oilfield sites. When they are removed, production drops significantly. Theft has cost the company significantly.
Recently, to cut down on theft, Chesapeake Energy has invested in high-tech, theft-deterrence measures at many of their job sites. Oil and gas wells are often prime targets for thieves looking to steal the valuable batteries or other metals and solar panels because they are often in remote areas.
"Chesapeake Energy is utilizing all available resources to assist law enforcement in making arrests of those individuals stealing oilfield assets such as batteries, solar panels, gas pipe, compressors, meters, and tubing," said J. Anthony Sweeney, senior security officer for Chesapeake Energy. "This has been a collaborative, successful effort between the Corbin Police Department and Chesapeake Energy Security, and we’re pulling our resources and expertise together to recover these stolen assets."
Hedrick said a few people had been arrested in West Virginia prior to Monday’s arrests in connection with similar thefts in the same area.