- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Three suspects have been charged in the theft of metal at the Eklutna Salmon Hatchery that caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the facility.

Corey S. Jenson, 19, and Michael P. Scott, 35, were arrested Friday in the theft of steel, aluminum and copper. They are charged with burglary, theft, criminal mischief and evidence tampering.

Jenson’s bail was set at $100,000 and Scott’s bail was set at $30,000, the Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/16JhjNz ). Both remained in custody Monday at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility.

A third suspect, Nicholas Simmons, 19, was charged with theft, burglary, criminal mischief and evidence tampering. He was free on bail Monday. All three men are represented by the Public Defender Agency, which does not comment on pending cases.

An 18-year-old fourth suspect was arrested Saturday, but online court records did not indicate he had been charged.

Intruders cut through walls to reach copper wire and locked portions of the hatchery, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The Eklutna Salmon Hatchery is on state land at the head of the Eklutna Tailrace. It’s operated by the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association.

The tailrace is a popular fishing area for anglers seeking king salmon. The hatchery is used during the summer to rear 400,000 king salmon released in the tailrace.

Troopers Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn, head of the troopers’ crime suppression unit in Mat-Su, said the metals theft took place over weeks. Other suspects have been identified.

The day the theft was reported, an aquaculture association employee drove to the site and spoke to three people outside. The employee at first did not realize anything was wrong.

“That’s when we walked in and saw there was more to it than that,” said Gary Fandrei, director of the aquaculture association.

The thieves were able to get inside because a power outage left the building without a working alarm. Much of the damage was to a generator building outside the main facility, Fandrei said.

Fandrei is optimistic that repairs will be completed by spring.

“It was insured, we’re working with the insurance company right now,” he said. “We would like to restore the facility as quickly as possible to a functional condition.”

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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