NEW YORK Fifteen Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) employees have been charged with stealing more than $250,000 worth of copper scrap from the railroad and selling it to a local scrap company, according to local media reports.
The arrests were the culmination of an investigation dubbed Operation Heavy Metal and prompted by a tip last year to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Investigators said the stolen wire included new spools, severed sections of spools and discarded copper wire that the railroad was gathering to sell for scrap.
The workers have been suspended without pay.
Lawyers for some of the workers sought to play down the allegations, arguing that many of the materials the men are accused of stealing was nothing more than "trash" discarded by the LIRR decades ago, according to Newsday.
According to the LIRR, the railroad makes up to $1 million per year selling discarded metal from its tracks, including copper, for scrap.