An undercover sting resulted in the arrests of more than two dozen people as authorities are trying to clamp down on an illegal copper trade they say is destructive to many Upstate property owners.
For the past three months, investigators from Spartanburg, Cherokee, Laurens and Union counties have been going to scrap yards to sniff out yard owners purchasing stolen copper. They dubbed it, “Operation Scrap Trap.”
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said officers are concerned the yards are buying copper that’s taken from home air conditioning units and power lines.
When people don’t report to us, we are not able to go back and get the people who are crawling under these older men and womens’ homes and stealing their copper. I know times are tough, and I know people are trying to make money. But, it don’t (sic) beat the old-fashioned way of work.
He said that since copper thieves are hard to track, law enforcement officers are instead targeting buyers in an effort to clamp down on the black market for stolen metal. Wright said more than $4 million in property has been stolen or damaged by the illicit trade.
A total of 27 scrap yard owners or employees were charged from the four counties. Those employees were accused of not properly checking to ensure the metal was not stolen.