Police recover record amount of stolen copper in Tucson
Reporter: Aaron Brackett
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - DPS is calling it southern Arizona's largest copper bust ever -- an international smuggling ring, stopped right here in Tucson.
The Investigation started in September. Commercial Vehicle Enforcement authorities stopped a tractor trailer to check its documentation. Little did officers know, what they found on that truck was just one a piece of an international copper smuggling puzzle.
"Since we deal with the commercial vehicle unit, we deal with large sums of product, anything from liquids to solids," said Eloy Ramirez of the Commercial Vehicle Unit of DPS. "Seeing something of this magnitude, which we see on the road all of the time, it is a norm. To find out that much had been stolen and we were able to claim it back, that was a good little feather in the hat."
The copper was in the form of metal plates called ingots, weighing about 830 pounds each and worth almost $3500 a piece. The total load on one truck alone? About 200,000 dollars -- part of the nearly one million dollars in stolen copper recovered.
Captain Ryan Young with DPS headed up the investigation that began back in September.
"I am not aware of anything that reaches the magnitude of what we have been able to recover -- this much of any stolen product," Young said. "We have recovered 66 percent of the copper we think was stolen from ASARCO mine -- that's pretty significant."
Police said the operation, which used property off Tangerine Road as storage, was very organized and rare, but the recovery of the metal sends a message to copper thieves everywhere.
"We're out there, we are watching. It may not be tomorrow, or the next day, but we will get you," Young said.
As of Tuesday, detectives cannot divulge all of the details surrounding the investigation, but 9 On Your Side is told that the copper was heading to a buyer in California who ships it overseas to China.
Detectives said some of it has likely been shipped overseas already.