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DME foreman resigns, turns self in

Profile image for By Lowell Brown / Staff Writer
By Lowell Brown / Staff Writer

A Denton Municipal Electric construction foreman has resigned after police said he conspired with a homeless man to make money by selling scrap metal stolen from the city.

Lucas Heath Hawkins, 36, a 10-year city employee, resigned Oct. 27, five days before he turned himself in on charges that he stole city materials and gave them to a homeless man to sell on at least three occasions, police records show.

"Mr. Hawkins supplied the homeless person with copper," police spokesman Ryan Grelle said, referring to Hawkins' alleged accomplice, 48-year-old Stephen James Dobra III. "He [Dobra] would sell the copper, and they would divide the money."

Hawkins was arrested and released Nov. 1 after posting $7,500 bail.

Hawkins declined to comment except to say that he resigned and was not fired by the city. His attorney, Rick Hagen, did not respond to messages.

Dobra remains in the Denton County Jail in lieu of $20,500 bail. In an interview Thursday, Dobra said he thought Hawkins had permission to take the materials.

"If anyone stole anything, it was him," Dobra said. "You can't steal something twice."

Hawkins and Dobra each face three counts of materials theft under $20,000, a state jail felony carrying a maximum punishment of two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Investigators planned to refer the case this week to the Denton County district attorney's office, which would decide whether to present it to a grand jury, Grelle said.

The case started after a police detective spotted Dobra carrying "a large amount" of aluminum wire on his motorcycle Sept. 9 and followed him to a recycling shop in the 1400 block of Fort Worth Drive, according to arrest warrant affidavits obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle. The detective, knowing Dobra was homeless and unemployed, found his actions suspicious and launched an investigation.

The investigation found that between May and September, Dobra sold about $6,200 worth of scrap copper and aluminum cable that police believe Hawkins had stolen from the city, according to police records. Dobra sold the materials so Hawkins' name would not appear on the sales registry, police determined.

In an interview Thursday, Dobra said he became friends with Hawkins about a year ago when Hawkins and his crew worked a job near a homeless camp off U.S. Highway 380. Hawkins initially offered him metal scraps without asking for anything in return but later wanted half the profit, Dobra said.

Hawkins never said the materials were stolen and repeatedly assured Dobra what they were doing was OK, Dobra said. Hawkins made one delivery in front of his crew and regularly dropped off materials in his work truck, Dobra said.

Dobra repeatedly said Thursday that he would take a lie detector test to prove his innocence.

Hawkins initially told police he gave Dobra "a little wire" but not all the materials Dobra sold, which led police to pursue charges against Dobra, according to the arrest warrant affidavits.

Hawkins later told a detective he had lied in his initial statement and admitted he gave Dobra all of the materials, according to the affidavits. Hawkins described his actions as a "dumb mistake," saying he was broke because of a relative's addiction to drugs and gambling and needed money for groceries and items for his children, the affidavits state.

As of July, Hawkins' salary at the city was nearly $69,500 a year, records show.

Grelle, the police spokesman, said the case against Dobra would stand even if Hawkins initially provided false information.

"[Dobra] still didn't receive the materials with the permission of the city," Grelle said.

It was not immediately clear when Hawkins' bosses at Denton Municipal Electric learned of the allegations or how they responded. DME spokeswoman Lisa Lemons referred questions to the city's public information office and police department.

City spokesman John Cabrales said the city would not answer questions about Hawkins' departure.

Dobra said a detective initially told him the city wanted to handle the incident internally without pressing charges. After his arrest, Dobra said, police told him the people who wanted to handle the matter internally didn't have the authority and that the city manager wanted the case prosecuted.

The city had no records of disciplinary action against Hawkins, an employee since October 2001. A search of public records found no prior felony convictions against him.

Dobra has two criminal convictions in Denton County, for drug possession and evading arrest, since 2006, county records show.

LOWELL BROWN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .