Metal thieves have a new friend: the middleman.
According to Richmond County sheriff’s Investigator Kendall Brown, the latest development in metal thefts is hindering the arrests of the actual thieves.
Brown said there has been a significant increase in the number of people who are putting signs on the side of their trucks and acting like business owners.
Signs stating “We buy scrap,” or “Will pay for metal” on their truck does not mean they are exempt from the law, he said.
“People are trying to make a little extra money,” he said. “These fly-by-night entrepreneurs are coming out of the woodwork.”
The problem that law enforcement faces is that the truckers are paying thieves, knowingly or unknowingly, for their metal at a discounted price and then selling it to the recyclers.
Brown said the price of steel has increased, which is why so many folks are trying to get in on the game.
“People are now selling farming equipment, steel beams and older vehicles that are broken down,” Brown said.
Record-keeping is at issue. If the recyclers notice something suspicious about it, they call Brown.
If the investigator suspects the product was stolen, he can trace it back only to the middleman if the middlemen did not get the correct record information. The middleman ends up going to jail and the thief remains free.
Middlemen are not paying taxes on the money they make.
“These people are taking revenue from the county,” Brown said. “You have to follow the same guidelines as everyone else.”
They need to get a small business license, pay taxes and keep records.
The records are very specific for metal sales. In a 19-page mandate that Brown hands out as an educational tool and warning, the record-keeping requirements are clear.
Every time a metal transaction takes place, the buyer is responsible for getting detailed information from the seller.
The requirements include: A photocopy or scan of a government ID; the weight, quantity or volume; and a description of the type of metal, the amount of money paid and the vehicle tag and type.