BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two brothers have been arrested after being accused of stealing brass fire sprinkler devices from hospitals, condominiums, and a kidney dialysis center.
John Michael Flattmann, Jr., 36, and Jason Matthew Flattmann, 31, both of Ponchatoula, who were arrested earlier last week on unrelated charges, were also charged by Hammond police on Friday, October 24, on a growing number of felony thefts.
The investigation began after the State Fire Marshal was notified by the Kenner Fire Prevention Bureau that several of the brass fire sprinklers, which can cost hundreds of dollars each, had been stolen from Ochsner Medical Center, a theatre, and a department store.
Two days later, nearly two dozen Hammond businesses, including a hotel, were victimized. The State Fire Marshal and Hammond police and fire prevention personnel, started looking for the stolen devices at area scrap metal yards.
Surveillance images from a Metairie condominium complex and documents at the scrap yards in Tangipahoa and Jefferson parishes led investigators to the Flattmann brothers.
The surveillance video at the condos in Metairie captured the men after they removed a fire department connection, which is used to pump much-needed water into a burning building. One brother, John Flattmann, is seen wearing a t-shirt with the name of a fire sprinkler company on it. The younger brother, Jason, had previously worked for the company and had knowledge about how the devices were installed.
When State Fire Marshall and Hammond investigators questioned the siblings, they both admitted to the crimes and scrapped the devices for "quick cash." At one of the scrap yards, investigators say the brothers admitted to scrapping more than 200 pounds.
"In addition to felony theft charges, arising from their actions in multiple jurisdictions, the brothers will also be criminally charged for placing lives and property in jeopardy by adversely affecting the operation of sprinkler systems which are considered life safety systems," said officials in a news release.
Because of the thefts, many fire sprinkler companies are taking measures to prevent future thefts of the devices.