PITTSBURGH The owner of a Pittsburgh scrap metal operation has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Maryland to charges of obstructing justice for allegedly lying to federal agents during a grand jury investigation of a nickel heist.
George Warhola, owner of A.J. Warhola Scrap Metal, admitted to falsely telling special agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in June 2011 that he didnt deal in nickel. Federal authorities had subpoenaed from Warhola all copies of records for the purchase of nickel.
Warhola, who will be sentenced Jan. 23, faces 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He has already agreed to pay $148,297 in restitution.
According to court documents, Warhola purchased nickel briquettes from the owners of a Maryland warehouse that held the metal for an international mining customer. The two men who opened the warehouse in 2006 pleaded guilty in the Maryland court last year to conspiring to transport stolen nickel briquettes (amm.com, April 26, 2012).
Between 2006 and 2011, an estimated 80,000 pounds of nickel was allegedly diverted from the warehouse.
Warhola allegedly sold some of the nickel to a person identified in court papers as C.M., owner of Three Rivers Scrap Metal Inc., also in Pittsburgh. Three Rivers is owned by Chuck Menzock, according to Pennsylvania business records. Federal court records indicate there are no active charges pending for Menzock.
Warhola allegedly contacted C.M. because he needed a third party to sell the metal since he didnt have contracts with mills who consume nickel, according to court the documents.
C.M. allegedly found a buyer for the nickel and paid Warhola in cash amounts higher than $10,000 between April and November 2010, the court documents show. To disguise the origin of the nickel and the size of the transaction, C.M. created at least 24 fake nickel receipts for amounts less than $10,000. Financial institutions have to report cash transactions above this threshold.
Neither Warhola nor Menzock could be reached for comment.