Escambia County Sheriff’s investigator Bruce Shue and lieutenant Greg Forbes examine scrap metal Tuesday.| Photo by Lisa Tindell

Stolen scrap metal buy leads to arrest

Published 9:05pm Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Atmore man was arrested Tuesday and charged with various degrees of receiving stolen property in connection with the purchase of scrap metals.

Willie James Hudson Sr., an employee at Shell Salvage on Jack Springs Road in the Freemanville community, was arrested and charged with buying ferrous metal (copper) without obtain identification which is a misdemeanor.

The business owner, Johnny Shell, was questioned Tuesday, however, no information on possible charges against him were released by Sheriff’s Office officials.

Lt. Greg Forbes with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said the arrests came after a yearlong investigation into complaints that the business had made purchases of stolen metals and other items at the location near I-65.

“We had received several reports of stolen metals being purchased here,” Forbes said. “Our investigation lead us to send in an undercover officer to make a sale of copper to the business. Mr. Hudson made the purchase of 21 pounds of copper from our undercover agent and never asked for an identification of the seller, which is required by law.”

Forbes said proper documentation on any ferrous metal is required before a sale can be considered legal.

“Any buyer can buy materials not knowing if it is stolen or not,” Forbes said. “Buying something is not a crime. The problem comes when a buyer fails to follow the law that requires all purchases to be documented including the seller’s name, address, identification number, the date of the transaction and even a record of the materials purchased including weight. If you don’t ask for identification, you can’t document who the seller is and that’s a violation.”

Bruce Shue, an investigator with the Escambia County Sheriffs Department, Shell had been warned repeatedly to comply with regulations and laws in place governing the purchasing of metals including proper documentation regarding the identification of the seller and other aspects of the sale.

“I know he had been warned three times about the laws in place,” Shue said. “He had been duly warned and directed through the Sheriffs office and the Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures division at least three times and he did not heed those warnings.”

Investigators were also questioning the legality of ownership of several vehicles found on the property of the salvage facility Tuesday.

“If he (Shell) can’t produce titles to all of these vehicles, that’s a violation of the law as well,” Shue said. “If he buys a vehicle, even if it is going to be scrapped, he has to have the title to the vehicle.”

Forbes said metals and other scrap materials purchased without following the law would impose a third-degree charge on any violators.

“If we find out that these cars don’t have titles here, that would make it a first-degree offense,” Forbes said. “We have had several reports that people were stealing stuff and bringing it here to sell. We want to stop this kind of activity.”

Forbes said the yearlong investigation of activity at Shell Salvage is just one investigation currently under way in the county.

“We are going to investigate these kinds of operations,” Forbes said. “We are keeping a close eye on other scrap yards around the county. We want to make sure they follow the law.”

Anyone with information concerning metals or other scrap materials being purchased illegally by scrap or salvage yard owners should contact the Escambia County Sheriffs Department at 867-0304 in Brewton or 368-4779.

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