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Nov 13, 2012 10:12 PM by Lupita Murillo

Update in ASARCO Mine theft

TUCSON - ASARCO Mines is offering a $50,000 reward for information concerning recent copper thefts at its Hayden Mine.

News 4 first broke the story in September and this past month, we reported DPS investigators heading to Los Angeles to follow the money to Hong Kong.

So far, no arrests have been made and officials say the investigation continues.

In September DPS officers served a search warrant on ranch on Tangerine road and uncovered $250,000 worth of stolen copper. That led investigators to a much bigger, international operation.

Today, the Director of DPS applauded the officers who worked the case and other agencies involved such as the Upland Police Department in California, and Customs and Border Protection.
"Copper has long been a staple of Arizona manufacturing ." said Director Robert Halliday. "It's also one of five C's associated with this state." Cattle, Cotton, Citrus, and Climate are the others.

It's copper that's found on the badges DPS officers proudly wear.

Jim Oien is the lead investigator in the case. He says two weeks ago, "Another cargo ship brought back more of the stolen copper headed for the Chinese market. A container loaded with 60 ingots was discovered on the ship."

Each ingot weights about 830 pounds.

Sgt. Mike Lehar says this case worked much like a drug smuggling organization.

"You have the group that stole it, you have the group that transported it, then you have the group that exported it over to California," he said. "Each one of these cells were interlocked and I have never run into a theft of this magnitude."

Nearly $2 million worth of stolen copper was recovered for ASARCO. DPS officers were able to recover the majority of it.

ASARCO officials tell News 4 they commend DPS as well as other agencies who were involved in recovering the stolen copper.

If you have information about the case, you are asked to call 88-CRIME, or 911.

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