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05/23/2012

Final co-conspirator sentenced to prison for stealing $2.6 million in metal imported into the port of Baltimore

BALTIMORE – A Baltimore man was sentenced to more than five years in prison for stealing $2.6 million in metal that was imported into the Port of Baltimore, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Thomas Jefferson, 50, was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. to 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to possess stolen goods and for possessing stolen goods, including aluminum, nickel and ferrochrome, from a foreign shipment. Judge Quarles also ordered Jefferson to pay restitution of $1,218,000.

According to his plea agreement and other court documents, Jefferson was employed at a binding company located on Wilmarco Avenue in Baltimore. Co-defendant Alan Verschleisser owned and operated Industrial Metals/Early Corp (Industrial Metals), a salvage yard located at Baker Street and Warwick Avenue in Baltimore. In early 2010, Jefferson began to steal aluminum T-bars from S.H. Bell, a warehousing company located on East Biddle Street in Baltimore that stored and transported metals shipped to the Port of Baltimore. Jefferson stole the T-bars at night through a hole cut in the company's fence. Jefferson approached Verschleisser about selling the stolen aluminum. Verschleisser contacted another Baltimore scrap metal dealer who agreed to buy the aluminum at a scrap metal price.

Verschleisser allowed truck drivers to drop off loads of aluminum T-bars at his salvage yard throughout the summer of 2010. Verschleisser then loaded the aluminum onto a truck and delivered them to the other dealer's scrap yard. Verschleisser paid Jefferson approximately $500 for each aluminum T-bar that Jefferson stole, for a total of approximately $70,000.

In July 2010, an international business sent a cargo ship carrying four sea containers of 12 two-tonne “super sacks” of nickel, worth approximately $2.5 million, from Australia to the Port of Baltimore. The containers were trucked to S.H. Bell for storage.

S.H. Bell also received two sea containers of ferrochrome from Turkey and India, worth a total of approximately $103,000. Nickel and ferrochrome are used in steel production.

Between September 1 and 2, 2010, Jefferson stole the two containers of ferrochrome from S.H. Bell using a stolen truck. Jefferson parked the stolen containers near Verschleisser's yard for Verschleisser to sell.

On Sept. 6, Jefferson stole aluminum T-bars from S.H. Bell. Jefferson, Verschleisser, co-defendant James Robinson and another individual then stole the four containers of nickel from S.H. Bell. Later that day, Jefferson, Verschleisser and others unloaded three of the sea containers of nickel into Verschkeusser's scrap yard. The last container was moved to an unknown location.

Verschleisser attempted to sell the stolen nickel, contacting prospective buyers in Australia and New York. On Sept. 13, 2010, a prospective buyer became suspicious when Verschleisser could not answer several basic questions about the nature of the nickel, such as its provenance and price. The prospective buyer recalled an industry-wide bulletin sent by the company that owned the nickel asking other metal traders to be on the lookout for someone trying to sell the stolen nickel. The prospective buyer contacted the company, which notified the Baltimore Police Department.

On Sept. 14, 2010, a Baltimore Police detective questioned Verschleisser about his efforts to sell the stolen nickel, which he denied. Verschleisser told Jefferson about the police inquiry, and they agreed to move the nickel out of Verschleisser's scrap yard. Later that day, Verschleisser operated a forklift to load 12 super sacks of nickel onto a tractor trailer. Robinson and Jefferson drove the truck out of the yard. Shortly thereafter, Baltimore police stopped the truck and arrested Jefferson and Robinson. Law enforcement seized approximately 24 tons of nickel from the truck and another 44 tons of nickel from Verschleisser's scap yard.

The total amount of loss resulting from the illegal scheme is $2,611,314.

Alan Verschleisser, 66, and James Robinson, 41, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to their participation in the conspiracy and were sentenced to three years in prison and 33 months in prison.

The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory R. Bockin and Martin J. Clarke.