DPS seizes more than $1 million in stolen copper

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Public Safety has recovered more than $1 million worth of stolen raw copper. Investigators believe much of it was set to be shipped overseas.

The bust came following an initial traffic stop back in September, when DPS officers stopped a commercial vehicle on Interstate 10. Officers discovered approximately 48 copper ingots in the trailer.

Ingots are large copper plates. Each one was four feet wide, four feet tall and two inches thick. Each plate weighed about 880 pounds.

Following that discovery, a search warrant was executed at a residence in Marana. Investigators discovered 54 copper ingots at that location. Officers also seized three truck tractors, three semi-trailers, one fork lift and two hand carts.

Officials said all the copper was stolen from the ASARCO Mining Corporation in Hayden, Arizona.

The Marana seizure reportedly provided enough evidence to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to investigate the sea ports in the Southern California area.  That’s where investigators discovered shipping containers holding more stolen copper ingots, valued at more than $1.25 million.

The containers were believed to be headed to China and Hong Kong.

Half of the shipping containers were stopped before their ship departed, while the other three were called back after leaving port.