San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has announced that Sims Metal Management (SMM), headquartered in New York, has agreed to pay a $4.1 million fine as part of a settlement to a civil case brought by the city of San Francisco and Contra Costa County, Calif.
In an effort to halt the market for stolen scrap metal the state has passed laws designed to prevent, deter and detect metal theft by imposing requirements on companies purchasing the material. Scrap metal dealers must take steps to determine that material they purchase is not stolen. As part of the law, scrap metal dealers must photograph, fingerprint and record the identification of individuals selling certain types of scrap metal. Unless a statutory exception applies, dealers also must wait three days before paying the seller for the scrap metal.
Sims, which owns and operates eight metal recycling facilities in Northern California, consistently violated these laws designed to deter metal theft, according to the district attorneys.
During the investigation of SMM, undercover officers in San Francisco and Contra Costa County offered to sell the company utility wire, communication wire and public utility fixtures. The two district attorneys say SMM’s employees purchased the clearly “stolen” material and failed to record the required information about the sellers. A review of the company’s records revealed that the failures were just the tip of the iceberg, according to the district attorneys. They say that for many years SMM violated the laws by not holding payments for the required three days or buying scrap metal without requiring identification or other information from the sellers, for example.
Under the settlement, SMM must pay $4.1 million in civil penalties and costs. The company also will be bound by a permanent injunction that ensures good business practices and prohibits future violations of the law, the district attorneys say. By entering into this injunction, SMM is agreeing to procedures that will make it a model for California metal recyclers in the future.
Gascón says, “Metal theft threatens the well-being of our infrastructure and costs the community dearly. My office is committed to utilizing all tools necessary to attack the marketplace of stolen metal.”
Contra Costa County’s District Attorney Mark Peterson says, “California is facing an epidemic of metal theft. The economic cost of metal theft cannot be calculated. It is not enough to go after the metal thieves alone. Recycling companies must be required to act responsibly because they can deter metal theft. The Contra Costa and San Francisco District Attorney’s Offices are working together to make metal theft less appealing for thieves by helping to ensure that recycling companies follow the law.”