Arizona Attorney General

Mark Brnovich



Attorney General Tom Horne Announces Indictments in Major Copper Theft Case

Joint Effort between Copper Producer and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Leads to 18 Arrests

Phoenix, AZ (Tuesday, April 30, 2013) -- A multi-million dollar copper theft ring that relied upon inside help from now-fired employees of Arizona copper producer ASARCO, LLC has been broken up, Attorney General Tom Horne announced today. The case was investigated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS).

“This is a stunning example of theft on a massive scale,” Horne said. “Copper production is a signature component of our state’s economy. For these defendants to abuse their positions at a mining producer and allow this valuable resource to be stolen and re-sold on the black market is unconscionable. 

I want to thank ASARCO, LLC for their invaluable help in this case. And the Department of Public Safety is to be commended for its tremendous investigative work that resulted in these defendants facing charges.”

The 18 defendants face 10 criminal counts including: illegally conducting an enterprise, conspiracy, money laundering, fraudulent schemes and artifices, and theft involving nearly $10 million in stolen raw copper from ASARCO, LLC.

The Department of Public Safety began investigating members of this criminal enterprise in September, 2012 after a traffic stop of a semi-truck carrying nearly $180,000 worth of raw copper ingots stolen from the ASARCO mine based in Hayden, AZ.

During the criminal investigation, DPS determined that several defendants employed at ASARCO, LLC in Hayden, Arizona had used their positions to facilitate the theft of semi-truck loads of raw copper from ASARCO’s Hayden mine operation.

Defendants working at ASARCO’s Hayden mine have been fired.

Other defendants were responsible for driving the raw copper loads to heavy metal recyclers both in Arizona and in California. These heavy metal recyclers would purchase the stolen copper from defendants at a fraction of the commodity price and would resell it to Chinese importers at a profit. In an effort to deceive U.S. Customs inspectors, defendants working at one of these heavy metal recyclers would blacken the raw copper to disguise the precious metal as scrap metal before loading it into cargo containers on ships destined for China. 

ASARCO, LLC, has been instrumental in the investigation of this case, referring the case to the Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office for investigation and prosecution. Assistant Attorneys General Mike Jette and Kim Ortiz are prosecuting this case.

These charges are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.