By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun
6:06 PM EST, January 3, 2012
Three Baltimore men have pleaded guilty to being involved with a scheme to steal imported metal worth $2.6 million from the Port of Baltimore, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Thomas Jefferson, 50, and James Robinson, 41, admitted in court Tuesday to conspiring to possess stolen goods from a foreign shipment. In December, Alan Verschleisser, 66, also pleaded guilty to that charge, according to a statement Tuesday from Maryland's U.S. Attorney's Office. Jefferson also pleaded guilty to actually possessing the stolen metal.
Near the beginning of 2010, Jefferson began to steal aluminum from a warehouse on East Biddle Street in Baltimore, called S.H. Bell, that stored metal imported to Baltimore's harbor. He took the aluminum "T-bars" at night, through a hole he cut in a fence surrounding the S.H. Bell's lot, prosecutors said.
After taking the aluminum, Jefferson contacted Verschleisser, who owned a salvage yard at Baker Street and Warwick Avenue called Industrial Metals, about selling the stolen aluminum. Verschleisser, in turn, contacted another Baltimore scrap metal dealer who agreed to buy the bars at a reduced, scrap metal price.
The two men sold aluminum bars throughout the summer of 2010, according to a statement from prosecutors. Jefferson received about $70,000 from the aluminum sales; $500 per bar. The 268,044 pounds of aluminum that Verschleisser sold brought in a total of $205,274.
After shipments of nickel and ferrochrome, used in steel production, arrived at S.H. Bell in early September 2010, Jefferson, Verschleisser, Robinson — a tractor trailer driver for the S.H. Bell company — and another man stole several shipping containers from the warehouse's lots, prosecutors said.
When Verschleisser tried to sell the stolen nickel, a prospective buyer — who knew from industry alerts that a massive amount of nickel had gone missing — informed the rightful owner, who alerted the Baltimore Police Department.
The total financial loss because of scheme is $2,611,314, prosecutors said. All three defendants face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for conspiracy. Jefferson also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for possessing stolen goods.
All three men are scheduled to be sentenced in early April.
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