Schenectady County

Two charged with selling grates stolen from Schenectady streets

Two former Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. employees have been charged with possessing cast i

Two former Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. employees have been charged with possessing cast iron tree grates stolen from the downtown area.

Charles Williams, 33, of Union Street, and Warren Ashburn, 29, of Irving Street, both face one count of third-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

They are accused of selling the stolen grates for scrap.

Corporation executive director Jim Salengo Friday called the accusations against the men regrettable and “totally against” what the corporation stands for.

As to how the grates were taken, “that’s what everybody’s trying to figure out,” he said.

Ashburn left the corporation Oct. 1, after about a year of employment, officials said. Williams worked with the corporation until last month, leaving soon after the thefts were discovered.

The thefts were discovered after a viewer of CBS6 tipped off the station and the station then relayed the information to police. The viewer sent information that tree grates were at T.A. Predel and Co., a scrap yard off Edison Avenue.

In all, a total of 67 sets of grates and 13 more vertical tree cages were missing. The stolen items were valued at more than $70,000.

Just more than half of the grates were recovered at Predel. The fate of the rest was unknown.

Records kept by Predel helped direct police to the men, Assistant Schenectady Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said.

“It wasn’t difficult to identify the individuals from some of the records we obtained,” Kilcullen said.

The men are not charged with taking the grates, but they are accused of possessing a total of 16 sets of grates at the scrap yard March 19.

Those 16 grates weighed in excess of 6,300 pounds. Each set costs the city $1,116 to replace. The men are accused of selling all 16 for a scrap price that totalled just $893.20, according to papers filed in court.

Police made the arrests after sorting through all of the records made available to them by the recycler, Kilcullen said.

Police are still trying to put together how the grates were taken. Police have previously said the winter snow may have helped conceal the thefts for some time.

“It’s not something that happened over a short period of time,” Kilcullen said, noting the weight of the material taken.

The vehicle used to drop off the grates was described as some sort of business vehicle, Kilcullen said. The exact type was unknown.

Kilcullen said that once the CBS6 story aired on the thefts, Williams took a personal day, then soon after turned in his agency-issued belongings.

The men were outdoor corporation employees, Salengo said, meaning they helped clear the sidewalks in the winter and helped hang the flower baskets in the summer, among other duties.

DSIC funding comes from downtown businesses, along with fundraising and grants.

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