Update: Former city councilman charged in connection with copper thefts

James Richard Smith

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UPDATE: On Thursday, James Richard Smith was officially charged with six counts of copper theft from a tornado siren and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses.


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LUTHER, Okla. -- A longtime Luther city councilman is behind bars for stealing from the very citizens he was elected to protect. James Richard Smith, also a former Luther mayor, allegedly told three inmates to strip tornado sirens of copper.

The damaged tornado sirens remain outside the Luther town hall.

Former city councilman James Richard Smith allegedly pocketed less money than he paid the inmates to steal it!

Now, it'll cost taxpayers tens of thousands to repair.

They're the last minute tornado warnings that save lives every year in our state, but half a dozen tornado sirens meant for rural Luther, Oklahoma, were never installed this year.

Instead, they were gutted for copper.

Longtime city leader James Richard Smith is the accused mastermind behind the theft.

Sheriff Whetsel says Smith told three DOC inmates to strip the copper and paid them each $40.

"We have no plans to present charges against the DOC inmates due to the fact that they were acting under the orders and authority of former Councilman Smith and believed they had the authority to remove the metal," Sheriff Whetsel said.

Investigators say Smith sold the copper to a recycling plant for just under $160. That means after paying the inmates, he only took home a little more than 30 bucks. The damage estimate on the taxpayer's dime is about $31,000.

"It's sad. Richard's been a dear friend for probably 30 years. It's a small town, everybody knows everybody," Luther Mayor Birlene Langley said.

Smith has been in trouble before but was never convicted. He was the mayor of Luther in 2006, when he allegedly assaulted a local police officer at a town hall meeting.

Then-District Attorney Wes Lane eventually dropped the charges against Smith, but he kept a leadership position as councilman. Now, he sits in jail facing multiple felony charges for a greedy crime that folks who live here just can't wrap their heads around.

"It makes the town of luther look pretty bad, because if a leader in the town of Luther is going to steal something from the town, it's kinda sad," Luther resident Stacey Underwood said.

The sirens were donated from Del City.

Smith is being held on a $14,000 bond.


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