Correctional officer charged with stealing water meters

A state correctional officer has been accused of stealing City of Cleveland water meters and selling the brass to a scrap yard.

City shop department head Ricky Hunt initially contacted Cleveland Police Chief John Foster about recurring thefts at the shop. Hunt said a state inmate told him a guard with the Georgia Department of Corrections, 24-year-old Levi Jehu Franklin of Morganton, was allegedly taking old brass water meters from a shop building, according to the police report.

The inmate claimed the guard was putting the meters in five-gallon buckets, placing them in the back of an inmate transport van and hiding them under a traffic vest, according to the report. Hunt found two buckets containing water meters in the van. Foster had Hunt verify the meters were still in the van before Franklin went back to the Colwell Probation Detention Center in Blairsville.

Foster followed the van in an unmarked car to Blairsville, where he saw Franklin move the buckets from the inmate van to the trunk of his personal vehicle. Once this was done, Franklin moved his vehicle back to the employee parking lot, then went into a building. In the report, Foster said this confirmed to him that Franklin was taking the meters and that no inmates were involved.

The next day, Foster notified Inspector Woodrow Tripp, with the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Office of Professional Standards Criminal Investigations Division, of what had taken place. A few days later, Foster was informed that Franklin had been arrested, and the water meters had been recovered.

Franklin was brought to the Cleveland Police Department, where he spoke to Foster, according to the report. Franklin told Foster that he was taking the meters home to clean them and then bring them back to the city.

However, Foster said he had information that this wasn’t Franklin’s first time doing this and that he was taking them to a scrap yard. Foster asked Franklin what scrap yard he and his brother worked at part-time, and Franklin said DHQ in Morganton. Franklin denied taking any other meters.

Foster contacted the scrap yard for records of what Franklin or his brother had brought in. A staffer sent Foster two tickets, one for 55 pounds of brass and one for 206 pounds of brass. Foster spoke to Franklin again, who admitted taking the meters and scrapping some brass (the 206 pounds allegedly were for the city water meters), but said one of the tickets was from his house, according to the report.

When asked why he did it, Franklin reportedly said he made a mistake, and asked if he could be charged with a misdemeanor. Foster said he was being charged with two felonies.

Franklin was arrested on Tuesday, May 28, charged with theft by taking and violation of oath by public officer. He was released on May 29 on a $10,000 bond from a bonding company, according to the White County Sheriff’s Office.

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