A highway is a tough thing to steal. A highway might be annexed in a skirmish between countries, or taken over by protesters. But you can’t just slip it in your pocket and make a dash for the hills, right?
Apparently, you can. Alexander Protopopov, acting deputy chief of Russia’s prison service, is accused of committing literal highway robbery between 2014 and 2015, according to the AFP.
In a process that makes all other crimes look unambitious, Protopopov oversaw the dismantling of the the 50-kilometer (31-mile) road in the far-northern Komi region. Police say he sold off more than 7,000 reinforced concrete slabs for personal profit. According to investigators, the pieces of the jigsaw-style highway were “dismantled and driven away,” costing the Russian government 6 million rubles (about $79,000).
It is unclear how long it took before anyone noticed.
Protopopov ran the region’s prison service for the past five years and has been given multiple awards for his service, including one for fostering “spiritual unity.” Protopopov faces charges of misappropriating state property while using his official position, which could land him ten years of prison.
This adopt-a-highway scheme gone wrong is not new territory for Russia. In fact, a Russian highway was also stolen in 2013. In other scenes of Russian klepto-creativity, culprits have stolen bridges and sold the metal for scrap.