Knox County scrap metal recycler caught breaking the law

Knox County scrap metal recycler caught on camera breaking the law

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Copper thefts continue to be a problem in many communities. Copper thefts continue to be a problem in many communities.
With 6 News hidden cameras rolling, some copper was sold to ESR Scrap Metal Recycler on Governor John Sevier Highway in Knoxville. With 6 News hidden cameras rolling, some copper was sold to ESR Scrap Metal Recycler on Governor John Sevier Highway in Knoxville.
No thumb print was taken and cash was given at the time of the transaction, which is against the law. No thumb print was taken and cash was given at the time of the transaction, which is against the law.
6 News showed owner Polee Ho the video. She said the man in the video is a part-time employee who has been with the company for three month and is aware of the law. 6 News showed owner Polee Ho the video. She said the man in the video is a part-time employee who has been with the company for three month and is aware of the law.
If a person is trying to sell copper or an unattached catalytic converter, the dealer must write a check and mail it to the address on the license or give a voucher. The seller must wait five days to redeem the voucher for cash. If a person is trying to sell copper or an unattached catalytic converter, the dealer must write a check and mail it to the address on the license or give a voucher. The seller must wait five days to redeem the voucher for cash.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Copper thefts continue to be a problem in many communities. Copper is still very valuable, meaning thieves continue to steal it and try to sell the copper at scrap metal yards for cash. However, laws were put in place to try and deter the thefts.

6 News received multiple complaints about one scrap metal recycler in Knox County not abiding by the law. 6 News Reporter Stephanie Beecken looked into it and caught the scrap metal yard on camera breaking the law.

A construction worker told 6 News he is fed up with thieves stealing copper from his job sites. For his safety, we are not revealing his real name, calling him "Tom Clark."

"We've had several of the houses broken into and they've stolen all of the copper wiring out from underneath," said Clark.

When the copper is gone, he can't work. The property owner must buy more copper, which puts the project and the paychecks on hold.

"When you are out a couple of weeks pay, it affects you and your family," said Clark.

Lt. Steve Webb with the Knox County Sheriff's Office Property Crimes Unit says copper thefts are a problem. He says extensive scrap metal provisions were enacted in 2008, giving law enforcement additional tools to crack down on thefts.

"If there is a theft at a location, we can go in and check scrap metal yards to see what's being sold in those yards for possible recovery and to prevent theft of items," said Lt. Webb.

The law requires scrap metal dealers to record the sellers tag number, get a copy of their license or photo ID and take their thumb print. If a person is trying to sell copper or an unattached catalytic converter, the dealer must write a check and mail it to the address on the license or give a voucher. The seller must wait five days to redeem the voucher for cash.

"That's giving five days where a report could be made and law enforcement to launch an investigation," said Lt. Webb.

Clark says before copper wire is sold to a scrap metal yard, the insulation is burned off.

With 6 News hidden cameras rolling, some copper was sold to ESR Scrap Metal Recycler on Governor John Sevier Highway in Knoxville. No thumb print was taken and cash was given at the time of the transaction, which is against the law.

The following week, we went back to ESR Scrap Metal Recycler, again with hidden cameras rolling, and again, the law was broken. Copper pipe was sold and cash was given at the time of the transaction. Dealers are supposed to wait five days before handing out cash.

Clark was upset to see the company continually breaking the law.

"There's a reason for it. That's why they enacted the law, and if they are not following it, they are inviting all the criminal element to come out here. 'Hey we are open for business. Bring us whatever you can,'" said Clark.

6 News went to the ESR Scrap Metal Recycler to get answers.

"I'm Stephanie Beecken with WATE 6 News. Are you aware there are rules scrap metal dealers are supposed to follow?"

The woman pointed to someone else and told us he was the manager.

"What is your policy regarding copper?" we asked.

"Copper, we have a five to seven day wait on anything we take or anything we buy," said ESR Scrap Metal Recycler Manager Barry Beider.

We then showed the manager Barry Beider our video.

"We just went in. We had copper, and he works with you right?" we asked.

"Yeah," replied Beider.

"That's cash given on the spot. So why would that happen?" we asked.

"I don't know. It shouldn't be happening," said Beider.

We then asked if this was something that's going to change.

"Yeah it will change," said Beider.

After a while, he eventually said the woman we originally spoke with is one of the owners of the company named Polee Ho.

6 News showed her the video. She said the man in the video is a part-time employee who has been with the company for three month and is aware of the law.

We also asked her what she is going to do to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I'm going to give him a warning letter. If he keeps doing it we will fire him. We won't do this again," said Ho.

Clark hopes the owner of ESR Scrap Metal Recycler stays true to her word and abides by the law.

"A type of business that doesn't follow the letter of the law, they invite the criminal element into it," said Clark.

ESR Scrap Metal Recycler has two locations. One location is in Knoxville and one is in Orlando, Florida. Jerry Ho, the company's operational director, says he will be flying in from Orlando to resolve the issue. He says a staff meeting will be held at the Knoxville location by Friday.

Ho also says 6 News will be allowed back in the future to see how ESR Scrap Metal Recycler has changed the operation.

According to the Knox County Sheriff's Office, penalties vary according to the violations. A company could lose their license. Some violations are criminal and could result in citations or the business could be shut down.

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