Local News

Steel of a deal: Five charged in stainless heists

Posted August 8, 2008 1:26 p.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2008 6:47 p.m. EDT

— Five Smithfield people have been charged with stealing loads of stainless steel from area manufacturers and selling it for scrap, authorities said.

Amy Jane Rook, 17, and Brandon Ray Johnson, 22, both of 300 Uzzle's Pond Road, Gerald Wayne Honeycutt Sr., 40, and Dina Marie Willis, 41, both of 2483 U.S. Highway 70 West Business, and Jessica Sherill Braswell, 22, 110 Pine Circle, were all charged with conspiracy to obtain property by false pretense.

Johnson and Rook also were charged with attempting to obtain property by false pretense and possession of stolen goods, Willis was charged with larceny and Braswell was charged with obtaining property by false pretense.

The group hit Ace Fabrication in Smithfield nine times in the last four months, grabbing more than $50,000 in stainless steel which was then sold for scrap, said Lt. Jeff Caldwell of the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

Video of some of the thefts was captured on Ace Fabrication's surveillance cameras, which helped investigators identify the suspects, Caldwell said.

"I would dare say (there were) hundreds of man-hours involved in the investigation. This was just a lot of putting pieces of the puzzle together," he said.

Wise Recycling in Clayton and TT&E Iron and Metal in Garner also cooperated with deputies during the three-month investigation, Caldwell said, noting Rook and Johnson were arrested Wednesday at Wise Recycling when they tried to sell 120 pounds of stainless steel.

Gary Taylor, vice president of Wise Recycling, said employees had to stall the suspected thieves until authorities arrived.

"We were coming up with every type of excuse," Taylor said. "Our poor office girl, she sweats bullets. She (could) hardly look out window."

Wednesday's arrests were the second time in two weeks that Wise Recycling has helped authorities track down suspected thieves, Taylor said, noting such cooperation can only boost the image of scrap-metal recyclers.

"The scrap industry a lot of time gets a bad name because it buys stolen material," he said. "We know we do buy some stolen material, but we try to do our best to at least be reasonable and try not to.

"I do want you to recycle all you can, but I want you to have it legally."

Investigators are trying to determine if the group is responsible for other metals thefts in the area, Caldwell said.