NEW YORK U.S. Customs
officials and Arizona police have seized copper ingots worth
more than $1.5 million allegedly stolen from producer Asarco
LLC in what law enforcement officials say could be an inside
job at the companys copper smelter in Hayden, Ariz.
Acting on a tip, Arizona police
stopped a flat-bed truck from the Hayden facility on a state
highway in September and recovered 49 copper ingots, according
to the state Department of Public Safety. Police traced the
copper back to a residence in Marana, Ariz., where 56 more
ingots were recovered.
Over the next month, Customs
officials in California recovered 359 copper ingots at the
ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in six containers that were
labeled as scrap metal, the department said.
"They were taking them from the
mine to a drop house," Carrick Cook of the Arizona Department
of Public Safety told AMM. "The drop house would
rearrange it and cover it up. They were burning it and making
it look like scrap metal."
The ingots were on their way to
China when they were discovered, with three containers already
having left the seaport on two ocean cargo carriers, according
to investigators. The other three containers were stopped one
day before they were scheduled to depart for Hong Kong.
"With so many ingots stolen, we
are under the strong impression that one or more people inside
the mine are involved," Cook said. "There were several
different transportation methods with multiple people involved
Cook said that considering the
complexity of the alleged theft, a larger crime network might
be discovered as the investigation continues. "This might be a
nationwide program (in which) theyre stealing metal
alloys from all over the country and shipping them to China,"
Tucson, Ariz.-based Asarco, a
subsidiary of Grupo Mexico SAB de CV, is offering a reward of
up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of anyone involved in the alleged theft.
A company spokesman was not
available for comment.