Cashing in: eight charged with taking 55 tons of nickel

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

An example of one of the “super sacks” of nickel reportedly stolen from ArcelorMittal in South Coatesville.

SOUTH COATESVILLE — While the good old nickel coin might not seem like it is worth much these days, its namesake metal, which makes up 25% of the coin, is a lot more valuable and apparently was targeted for theft in a big way — to the tune of 55 tons — by workers at a local steel and mining company.

Eight people were charged Wednesday with stealing and reselling the metal, which currently has a market value of more than $500,000 (pricing for the metal was $5.17 per pound in midday Wednesday trading, according to Kitco News, a leading monitor of the metals industry), although law enforcement sources said the company was paying more for the metal, between $8 and $9 per pound, placing the hit to the company closer to $1 million. Nickel is used in steel production, as an example, stainless steel is made up from iron, nickel and chromium, according to the Nickel Institute.

All eight were either employees of ArcelorMittal or one of the company’s contractors, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said.

The eight defendants are: Dane K. Douglas (age 39),  Corey  Douglas  (age 36), Aaron L. Anderson (age 36), George  Glassco  (age 56), Richard  R.  Cooper (age 54), Maurice Dennis (age 26), Jeffrey Shuler  (age 55),  and  Marcus  Pearce (age 25). Dane Douglas and Corey Douglas are brothers — and the latter is the only individual charged who did not work at the factory, officials said.

“The most difficult crime to stop is an inside job,” Hogan said in a statement. “The conspirators knew exactly how to evade detection while carrying out their crimes. It was only because of the outstanding work by the Chester County Detectives and ArcelorMittal’s own security team that the full scope of this crime was uncovered.”

Because of the weight of the nickel, stealing it, investigators said, required a fairly complex plan and a number of people working together to conceal the alleged theft from the company.

The nickel is stored at the ArcelorMittal factory in “super sacks,” which weigh 1,000s of pounds.

Investigators said that the eight had access to the area at ArcelorMittal where the nickel was stored in super sacks.  They, it is alleged, would  arrange to have a super sack moved  to a different area of the factory, to allow it to be accessed for the theft.

Authorities said there was a clear plan and division of responsibilities among the eight charged. Some managed the movement of the nickel  within the  factory, while others worked to get the nickel out of the factory.

The eight, investigators said, used code to communicate with each other, advising when the nickel was available and had been moved to trigger a theft. Those who worked in security were  allegedly paid to look the other way.

The eight used different ways to get the nickel out of the factory, some more effective than others. Sometimes,  they  used  backpacks  and  private  vehicles.   Another time, authorities said, they loaded an entire super sack of nickel onto a box truck. The weight in the rear of the truck was so heavy that it caused the front wheels of the truck to lift off the ground and almost tip the truck over.

Once the eight had the nickel out of the factory, authorities said they re-sold the nickel at PASCO Incorporated, a metal recycling company in  Philadelphia. PASCO bought the nickel for $4 per pound, somewhat lower than current market value and less than half of what ArcelorMittal had been paying for the metal.

PASCO issued checks to the defendants for the stolen nickel. And eight charged individuals deposited those checks into their own bank accounts, which investigators said provided a convenient road map for the detectives to track the amount of the thefts.

The thefts took place over a period of years, authorities said. The defendants stole a total of 110,704 pounds of nickel from ArcelorMittal,  causing a total loss to the company of $911,093.92.

“By stealing from their own company, these defendants were taking food off the table from their own colleagues,” Hogan said. “This type of theft cuts into the company’s bottom line, leading to reduced salaries and layoffs. These defendants betrayed their own friends and co-workers.”

Seven of the eight have been arrested, Hogan said, with Richard Cooper remaining at large in Texas. Authorities said he is expected to surrender or face extradition.

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