NEW YORK Eighteen people
have been indicted for their alleged involvement in a
multimillion-dollar copper theft ring.
Most of the stolen copper was
sent to a scrapyard in California before being shipped to
international destinations, according to the Arizona Department
of Public Safety (ADPS).
The accused, who face 136 felony
counts, including illegally conducting an enterprise,
conspiracy, money laundering and theft, include two former
employees at Asarco LLCs mine in Hayden, Ariz. "Rene Joe
Arbizo and Gene Carlo Garcia were supervisors at the mine and
played critical roles in the thefts," ADPS Captain Ryan Young
On Sept. 28 last year, the ADPS
intercepted a load of 49 copper anodes, valued at about
$171,000, on a tractor-trailer in northern Tucson, Ariz.
Later that day, officials recovered an additional 56 anodes
from a ranch in Marana, Ariz.
The ensuing investigation led to
the discovery that two Asarco employees allegedly were involved
in an elaborate copper theft scheme that included shipping
stolen anodes to New Star Services, a scrap recycling facility
in Upland, Calif., from where they allegedly were exported to
ports in southern China. A subsequent search at New Star
Services found an additional 24 anodes, and stolen anodes also
were recovered from three separate cargo ships bound for
Representatives from New Star
Services couldnt be reached for comment.
"The metal recycler would
purchase the stolen copper from the defendants at a fraction of
the commodity price and would resell it to Chinese importers at
a profit," Tom Horne, Arizonas attorney general, said in
a statement. In an effort to deceive U.S. Customs inspectors,
workers at New Star allegedly blackened the raw copper with a
torch to disguise the metal before loading it into cargo
containers on ships destined for China, he said.
"This is a stunning example of
theft on a massive scale," Horne said. "Copper production is a
signature component of our states economy. For these
defendants to abuse their positions at a mining producer and
allow this valuable resource to be stolen and resold on the
black market is unconscionable."
Tucson-based Asarco is an
integrated copper mining, smelting and refining company with
about 2,700 employees.