DPS seizes over $1,000,000 of stolen ASARCO copper headed for China

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By John Hernandez

At a news conference held Wednesday Nov. 14, 2012,at the Arizona Department of Public Safety Southern Arizona Headquarters, DPS released more information about the stolen copper from ASARCO.

Public Information Officer Bart Graves and DPS Director Robert Halliday spoke and answered questions along with some of the officers involved in the investigation.

As the result of further investigation regarding the copper theft from ASARCO in Hayden, Arizona 359 stolen copper ingots (anodes) were recovered.

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 uncovering of what appears to be a sophisticated black market operation started on Oct. 27, 2012 when the Arizona Department of Public Safety Southern Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit conducted a criminal investigation regarding a copper theft at ASARCO in Hayden, Arizona.

DPS initiated a commercial vehicle stop on Interstate 10 near milepost 200. In the trailer of the commercial vehicle, 49 copper ingots were discovered and seized. Information obtained from the traffic stop led to a search warrant that was executed at a residence located at 6320 W. Tangerine Road in Marana, Arizona.

During the search of the property, 56 copper ingots were discovered. Three truck tractors, three semi-trailers, one heavy-duty commercial forklift and two handcarts were seized as evidence.

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 the event can be viewed online at http://tinyurl.com/bl8v9q3.

To comment on this article and others  visit the Copper Area News Facebook or send us an email at CBNSun@MinerSunBasin.com 

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