Tucson has ties to $2 million copper theft - Tucson News Now

Tucson has ties to $2 million copper theft

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

New developments arise in a multimillion dollar theft investigation with ties to Tucson.

Department of Public Safety officials are now serving search warrants to at least two local recycling companies, where they believe some of the stolen copper may have been sold.

One of the facilities to be served a search warrant less than 24 hours ago was Reyco Plant on E. 22nd Street. Authorities want to look at documents on file at the location in hopes to find suspect leads in the copper heist.

"We don't commonly see anodes come through," said Gary Kippur, Tucson Iron and Metal president. "If they do, most scrap yards won't buy them; [they] know they're stolen. We've had them come through in the past. We write down the licence plate number and call police."

Scrap yards call these giant 850-pound blocks of raw copper a red-flag item. DPS officials say they're easy to spot because ASARCO Hayden is the only company that makes them in the United States.

"So far we think it's probably worth $10 million dollars worth of copper," DPS Det. James Oien said.

Oien says getting away with a theft this large is complicated. "Well, it's hard to explain, but this has to be an inside job."

Officials say the ASARCO plant has beefed up security measures since these thefts, which they believe began in 2006. Right now, authorities are looking ar more than a dozen suspects.

So far, they've recovered $2 million worth of ASARCO copper, some at a ranch off Tangerine Road in Tucson; more copper was found in upland California.

From the Los Angeles Port in Long Beach, they have traced millions of dollars worth of ASARCO copper in ships on the Pacific, all the way to mainland China.

"All this copper was going to China where it's being made into products, which they then sell back to the U.S," Oien said.

Authorities expect to indict at least 19 people soon. I am told this will be an internation indictment; they believe some of the suspects have fled the country and are now in Taiwan.

We reached out to the owners at Reyco, but they have not responded.

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