Copper-seeking crooks target area church, several businesses

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Akin Affrica is a Cleveland entrepreneur who owns at least five businesses. He plans to employ dozens of ex-felons, like himself, in his next project and teach them the restaurant business -- that is, if he can stay in business.

"I am in the restaurant industry. I own a place called Zanzibar, place downtown called StoneTown, and some Angie's locations," he said. "We have four locations."

Affrica's latest restaurant project is on 139th and Kinsman. The location was ripped off of two of air conditioning units recently, costing him between $20,000 and $24,000.

"They took $20,000 out of my pocket, possibly, if the insurance company doesn't kick in for a couple of hundred bucks," he said. "That's what hurts more than anything."

Pastor Chelton C. Flanagan of Holy Trinity Baptist Church said thieves have stolen from his church multiple times.

"Once they came on a Sunday. Then they came back again on Friday. Then they came back again the following Sunday," he said.

Outside of the sin of stealing from a church, the brazen thieves covered themselves, aware of cameras, and took less than 15 minutes to take copper from the AC units.

Pastor Flanagan believes those responsible for vandalizing his church are doing it to feed their drugs addictions.

Councilman Zack Reed alerted Cleveland 19 to the series of thefts, which also included Two Cousins Beauty Supply.

"They're making it day-by-day and a hit like this sets them back, dramatically," Reed said.

These thieves are now taking the copper they steal to neighboring counties to sell because Cleveland has been cracking down on scrapyards who buy the illegal copper.

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