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Two Bakersfield, CA, men pleaded guilty to conspiring to damage energy facilities by stealing programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

Derek A. Brown, 33, and Bryan T. Schaub, 22, of Bakersfield, pleaded guilty, said United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

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Brown and Schaub stole PLCs and other equipment from oil field facilities of Chevron, Occidental, Seneca Western Minerals Corporation, Aera Energy, and Berry Petroleum during 2011 and 2012, according to court documents. These PLCs controlled the opening and closing of valves in the oil fields. The theft of a programmable logic controller creates the risk of an oil spill or loss of production. The total loss of equipment by the oil companies exceeded $200,000.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident. Assistant United States Attorneys Duce Rice and Michael Tierney are prosecuting the case.

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Sentencing for Brown and Schaub by United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii will be July 14. They face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison, restitution, and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

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