Crime Trackers

Apr 30, 2013 7:15 PM by Lupita Murillo

International Copper Theft busted, 18 indicted

HAYDEN, Ariz. -An international copper theft ring busted.

18 people from Southern Arizona to Taiwan indicted on 136 felony counts. Among those two Asarco mine employees in Hayden.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Investigators say the copper had been disappearing from Asarco's Hayden mine for seven years.

Last September DPS officers pulled over a flatbed truck that investigators say was loaded with stolen copper ingots from the Hayden mine. They tracked the ingots to the Port of Los Angeles where some of the ingots were loaded into shipping containers headed for China.

12 search warrants followed including one in Upland California, and two earlier this month at recycling plants in Tucson and Nogales. News 4 Tucson is the only TV station to cover this story as it has unfolded over the past seven months.

DPS investigators say more than $10 million worth of copper ingots have been stolen from the mine they say it was an inside job.

They say Gene Garcia is one of those responsible. He was arrested early Monday morning as he got off shift at the Hayden mine. Sgt. Mike Lehar says, "They had people inside the plant that were setting copper aside then picking it up."

Investigators say Rene Arbizu was another key player on the inside. "Arbizu was one of the shift managers. He was one of the ones who was getting the copper moved."

Arbizu and Garcia face multiple charges that include money laundering, conducting an illegal enterprise, fraud, conspiracy and theft. Arbizu's bond is set at $1,000,000 and Garcia's at $500,000.

Attorney General Tom Horne's office is prosecuting the case. He told News 4 Tucson, "This is another example of a valuable partnership to put a stop to people who were stealing millions of dollars worth of copper which I think is a serious crime Az. Dept. Of public Safety officials says they're sending a message to anyone involved in metal theft. "Don't do it, and if you do you will be caught".

Asarco sent this statement regarding the investigation. "DPS promptly began investigating the stolen copper following the information Asarco provided. Asarco fully cooperated as part of this investigation and will continue to do so as the prosecution proceeds against those individuals identified as being involved. Asarco is pleased that the information and investigation has now led to the indictment of numerous people on scores of felony counts."

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