Seven coworkers and one of their brothers conspired to steal 55 tons of nickel from their Pennsylvania steel factory costing their company nearly $1 million, said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.
The workers – some were subcontracted by maintenance company Vandenburg and security company Allied Barton – conspired to steal tons of nickel briquettes from the ArcelorMittal factory in Coatesville over a period of years, said Hogan.
"The most difficult crime to stop is an inside job," said Hogan Wednesday. "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."
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The steel plant uses nickel – at a cost of $8 to $9 per pound – to produce steel. The nickel that looks like silver-colored charcoal briquettes comes in "super sacks" that weigh thousands of pounds each, said Hogan.
Plant security became suspicious of the alleged scheme after a plant manager spotted suspect George Glassco putting nickel briquettes into a bucket that he took away in January 2013, said investigators.
The plant manager alerted the plant’s security team which then called county detectives. Glassco – a Vandenburg employee – later admitted to stealing the nickel and selling it with the help of Richard Cooper, who had access to the supply area, said police.
"The detectives uncovered a sophisticated and coordinated scheme to steal nickel that stretched over years," said the DA’s news release.
The plan mostly involved moving super sacks to a different part of the factory where they could be accessed for the thefts, said Hogan. The suspects used code to communicate with one another.
In total, 110,074 pounds of nickel with a total value of $911,093.92 were taken using backpacks, cars and even a box truck – the load weighed so much it almost caused the truck to topple – to get the stolen nickel off plant grounds, said Hogan.
The stolen nickel was resold at PASCO Inc., a Philadelphia metal recycling company at $4 per pound – a 50-percent discount on true value, said Hogan. Personal checks issued by PASCO to the defendants gave investigators a "convenient road map" of the thefts, said Hogan. The PASCO checks implicated Aaron Anderson, Cooper, Dane Douglas and Glassco, said investigators.
Corey Douglas, who didn’t work at the factory, gained access to nickel thanks to his brother, Dane, said Hogan. Gate security guards -- including Maurice Dennis, Marcus Pearce and Jeffrey Shuler -- were paid off to look the other way, said investigators. Shuler admitted to taking money for turning a blind eye to the heist, said investigators.
Anderson, 36; Cooper, 54; Dennis, 26; Corey, 36, and Dane, 39, Douglas; Glassco, 56; Pearce, 25; and Shuler, 55 stand accused of felony theft and related charges. All the defendants except for Anderson, who is in Texas, were arrested and charged, said Hogan.
"By stealing from their own company, these defendants were taking food off the table of their own colleagues," said Hogan. "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."
None of the men still work at the company and the fraud was exposed in 2013.
ArcelorMittal's cooperate offices didn’t immediately return NBC10’s request for comment.