Man accused of stealing from home where TV news interviewed him

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A man accused of stealing a truck and $30,000 worth of tools from victims of a recent wildfire was caught after the victims saw him give a televised interview in front of their home.

The victims, Michael and Crystal Armstrong, live in the 8600 block of Swarthout Canyon Road, which was affected by the Blue Cut Fire. They were asked to evacuate on Aug. 17 because of the fire, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They evacuated to another area and watched coverage of the fire on TV.

That’s when the Armstrongs noticed something odd.

The couple was watching Channel 9, a Los Angeles news station, when they saw a reporter interview a man in front of their burned-out home. The man, later identified as John Coppini, claimed on-air to be the caretaker of the Armstrong’s property. When the Armstrongs returned to their home, their truck and several tools were missing.

The tools are valued at $30,000, the sheriff’s department said.

Coppini is accused of grand theft during a state emergency and vandalism involving more than $400, according to jail records. The records also show that Coppini has been released on bail.

The Armstrongs’ truck has been recovered but the tools are still missing. Officials said the missing tools include a trig welder, hydraulic punch, cable saw, hydraulic hose crimper, roto hammer, band saw, right angle drill and thousands of metric and sae sockets and wrenches.

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