A theft ring, which included former Duke Energy employees, made nearly a half-million dollars from selling copper wiring stolen from the utility.

The ring made $469,535 selling the wire to recyclers after it was stripped of its insulation and cut up, according to an AP report.

The theft occurred over a nearly four-year period before Duke notified law enforcement in November 2010. The employees, including a supervisor, are accused of taking wiring left over from jobs in Hamilton County and selling it to recyclers in Northern Kentucky, instead of returning it to Duke.

Nine men – including four former Duke employees – pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges of conspiring to transport goods in interstate commerce, transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce, receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to launder money.

According to the AP report, Duke cable splicing crews were responsible for installing new copper wire and replacing old copper wire as routine maintenance to Duke’s underground electrical grid in Hamilton County. At the end of each day, the crews were supposed to return excess wire to Duke’s Dana Avenue facility in Cincinnati for recycling.

Instead, the wire was transported to undisclosed locations in Northern Kentucky where it was cut into smaller sections and stripped of its outer coatings, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege the copper was then sold to metal recycling companies in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. The recyclers usually paid cash, the report says, which was split among the conspirators, according to the indictment.

The indictment outlines six specific dates the stolen copper was allegedly sold between 2006 to mid-November 2010.