Mitchell man who stole thousands worth of copper wire to serve 60 days in jail, pay $10K in restitution

Assistant Attorney General Douglas Barnett detailed the copper theft scheme that Steven Dirkes was engaging in, calling it his “little honey hole” to make money by "ill-gotten gains."

A gavel clanks.

MITCHELL — A Mitchell man who stole roughly $10,000 worth of copper wire from a Letcher resident and sold it to salvage yards avoided prison on Tuesday for his role in the scheme.

Steven Dirkes, 46, of Mitchell, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, a Class 2 misdemeanor, and possession of methamphetamine, a Class 5 felony. He faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for both charges combined, but he was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail and eight years of probation.

Assistant Attorney General Douglas Barnett detailed the copper theft scheme that Dirkes was engaging in, calling it his “little honey hole.” According to Barnett, Dirkes sold the stolen copper wire to salvage yards.

“They researched where they could get the best bang for their buck,” Barnett said of Dirkes and another individual allegedly involved in the scheme who was not named Tuesday. “This was a way for him to make money by ill-gotten gains.”

The valuable supply of copper served as a “nest egg and retirement” for the victim, Barnett said. Barnett urged the court to order Dirkes to pay $10,000 in restitution to the victim for the stolen copper.


“There was a drug and methamphetamine component to this all,” Barnett added.

During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Dirkes pointed to his past drug use as the reason he stole the thousands of dollars worth of copper from a victim.

“It was the drugs,” he said.

As part of the sentence that Judge Chris Giles imposed, Dirkes was ordered to pay the victim $10,000 in restitution fees, along with serving the 60-day jail stint.

Dirkes reached a plea agreement with state prosecuting attorneys that recommended suspending all of the prison time for the grand theft charge. Judge Giles stuck with the plea agreement and suspended 15 years of prison for both charges combined.

Judge Giles pointed to Dirkes cooperating with authorities during the investigation and his successful participation in alcohol and drug screening programs over the past few months as factors for giving Dirkes a chance at probation.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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