On April 16, 2013, the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigation Division and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau served two search warrants in the ongoing copper theft investigation involving the ASARCO Hayden mine.
The initial investigation began in September 2012 when it was discovered that a group of people were acting in concert to steal large amounts of copper anodes from Hayden. At that time it was believed that approximately 700 anodes were stolen, of which DPS recovered 488. It appeared the thefts had begun around April 2012.
Lead Detective James Oien’s investigation has discovered the copper thefts could have begun as early as 2006. He has identified three possible exporters of the stolen copper which could now be in excess of $10 million dollars.
Yesterday’s search warrants were served on other local recycling companies which may have retained records of these previous transactions.
Those businesses involved include: Mariposa Recycling in Nogales, Ariz., and its parent company Recyco Inc. located in Tucson.
In late September 2012, the Arizona Department of Public Safety made a traffic stop on I-10 near Casa Grande on a commercial vehicle that was loaded with 48 copper anodes. That discovery led DPS investigators to a residence in the 6300 block of West Tangerine Road in Marana with a search warrant. Officers located 54 more copper anodes and seized three truck tractors and semi-trailers, a fork lift and two hand carts, according to a news release.
Representatives from Asarco in Hayden identified the copper anodes at the scene.
The investigation conducted by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Criminal Investigation Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport allowed CBP officials to retrieve six containers with suspected stolen copper valued at $1.25 million.
CBP were able to halt three of the containers at the seaport a day before their scheduled departure. Three other containers had already departed the port for China but were halted and ordered to return.
DPS provided information including pictures, blueprints, detailed description and mineral content of the ingots, which allowed CBP to identify the three containers scheduled to be shipped to Hong Kong. The three containers at sea were identified and ordered to return to the Los Angeles seaport for inspection.
All of the containers had a Shipper’s Export Declaration listing the commodity as “Metal Scrap (Copper Alloy Waste and Scrap)” from the same exporter. The identity of the exporter and recipient of the shipments could not be released due to the ongoing investigation.
The copper ingots each measure four feet in width, four feet in height, and two inches in thickness and weigh approximately 880 pounds. Each ingot is valued at $3,488.
The ingots are unrefined copper with traces of gold and silver. They should not be considered scrap metal and should not be in the scrap metal market. DPS hopes that this sends a message to metal dealers around the state as well as copper thieves.
The stolen copper was valued at $300,000. Between the original seizures and the copper acquired at the seaport, over $1.5 million of stolen copper has been seized. Due to the ongoing investigation the number of people arrested, suspects and other pertinent information could not be divulged.
A total of 240 stolen ingots remains unaccounted for and may have already entered the Chinese market.
Video from a press conference held in November by DPS can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/XIQkJV.