ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — They were married with kids — six men who held down decent jobs, until co-workers wondered how they could  afford fancy trips, new vehicles and the latest riding lawn mowers.

The six are now charged with taking part in an elaborate copper-theft ring, targeting an East Alton, Illinois industrial plant that reports $7 million in  missing copper over a three-year period.

“Most of them were reported to be living way above their means,” said East Alton Police Major Brian Archer, “Large trips, lots of vehicles, motorcycles, expensive lawn mowers and different types of things.”

The ambitious gang is just the latest example of a nationwide epidemic of copper thieves stripping away gutters, air conditioner coils, plumbing and catalytic converters — anything made of copper —  to resell for $3 or more a pound to a copper-hungry world.

Working in plain sight, the East Alton copper gang sneaked copper past co-workers at the Olin Brass Plant by throwing it in the trash.

The accused inside man, Tim Fee, was allegedly caught loading $40,000 worth of copper into an Allied Waste truck driven by another suspect, Sonny Carter.

The trash truck driver’s brother Ricky Carter — and alleged accomplices Larry Thompson, Shane Reese, and Dave Whitman — worked off site.  They reportedly chopped up the copper into resalable chunks, then sold it at scrap yards.

Police say this was a sophisticated operation with a ringleader who ran the show.

“The ringleader carefully pieced certain people with other people and didn’t allow them to know everything that was going on in the operation,” Archer said, “It was almost like a cell operation. I don’t believe every single person knew every other person.”

Most of the payments were made in cash.  And that’s made the case more difficult to put together.  So far, police say they have receipts and other evidence linking the men to “several hundred-thousand dollars worth of copper thefts.”

Archer declined to identify the ringleader.

donna baringer East Alton Copper Gang Led Double Lives

St. Louis Alderwoman Donna Baringer

Meanwhile, across the Mississippi, in St. Louis where thieves stole an estimated $4.7 million dollars worth of copper last year,  the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is drafting a regional bill to prevent such thefts.

Alderman Donna Baringer’s bill would require all copper buys to be paid by check, and all scrap metal dealers to keep computerized records.  The plan would have to be adopted in St. Louis city and then by surrounding county boards.

If such a law had been in place, Major Archer says the East Alton copper gang might have been caught much sooner.

“It does seem like that would be a great help if we had some way of monitoring everything coming in and requiring identification ,” Archer said.

Archer also faults scrap buyers for the three-year long theft at Olin Brass.  “If the scrap buyers were watching more for it, rather than just doing business as usual and not questioning a lot of things, I think it would’ve been caught a lot sooner.”

Copyright KMOX Radio

Comments (66)
  1. Rudolph Smith says:

    I thought Burl Ives died several years ago…

      1. Carrieann says:

        Yeah — it was ! :-0

    1. Jeff Berling says:

      He sang “Silver and Gold” but I don’t think he had any songs about copper.

      1. William Miller says:


    2. Tom says:

      I bet with all the extra stolen copper cash, he did have a real Holly-Jolly christmas.

  2. Dee Dean says:

    Can anyone tell me what the deal is with that chart behind the convict? I thought it was to measure his height but the numbers conflict.

    1. Sadie says:

      Inches and centimeters.

      1. Dee Dean says:

        The math doesn’t add up for inches and centimeters.
        2.54cm = 1 inch and on the chart 63 & 60 are almost the same.

      2. ssmith says:

        One side for women, the other for men.

      3. Teabag Smith says:

        HUh? One side for women and one for men? More likely whites and coloreds.

      4. Thomas Batts says:

        He is 66 inches or 1.67 meters, or 167 cm tall. The metric units are in the left side with the leading 1 is omitted.

    2. Ah Chang says:

      Inches on the right and centimeters on the left (note: this is the second 100 centimeters, i.e. the gnome is 167 cm tall)

    3. John Smith says:

      One scale is in inches and the other is in IQ.

      1. William Miller says:


      2. Ewe Jankass says:

        Hight and waist size.

      3. tom says:

        He actually doubles as a Human Thermometer. degrees Celcius on the right, the Rankin scale on the left.

    4. Smartypants says:

      Left is for height, the right side is IQ.

    5. koedo says:

      One measures height, the other measures IQ.

    6. Mike O says:

      Maybe.. The camera has limited ability for adjustment. It is partially fixed. Therefore for short persons there is a small platform they would step on.

      Or perhaps there is a scale (for weight) that is 3 inches high that is sometimes deployed at the same time. The chart allows for it not being used.

  3. Hank Warren says:

    Obamanomics leading to copper crimes due to inflation, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our rights:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama, vote for Ron Paul.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

    1. Luke says:

      Yes. Because copper prices didn’t go up prior to Obamanomics… /sarc

      Please buy a clue. Copper prices rose before Obama became president and long before he was able to actually able to implement his misguided policies.

      1. cl says:

        Just as I thiught-Bushes fault.

  4. gfy says:

    So is your mother for not drowning you in a bathtub.

  5. My Editor Friend says:

    The two scales of numbers is one for men and one for women.

    Why didn’t you think of that?

  6. Early Ardmore says:

    “The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.” ~ Clarence Darrow


  7. Darrell Batchelor says:

    The leader should have killed the rest like in Goodfellas.

  8. BDDD says:

    Need members of congress in the grand theft line up!

  9. RG says:

    Don’t see what crime was committed here. These guys were just good garbage collectors.

    1. Frederick says:

      The crime is conversion. Taking anothers (the Plants) property through fraud when you have a responsibility to protect it. The fact they put valuable property into the trash to take it out for resale later means they violated their employers trust.

  10. Will says:

    The name Shane Reese rings a bell. A Shane Reese was involved in an attempted copper theft in Alton this summer that killed his partner.

  11. 2101Chronicles says:

    At this time in my life I would like to thank Florida Power and Light for my education at UCF. That is all I have to say.
    Mr. Rabbit

  12. Bob says:

    I thought only illegals and blacks stole copper??? That guy looks white. I am so confused.

    1. Pinto Bean says:

      Only thieves steal copper. There, I fixed it.

  13. bill says:

    it should read dale reese not shane reese,that is his nephew,he is a copper thief also,lol.

  14. Jon says:

    This guy stole copper from his boss? He looks like such an upstanding citizen. Copper is probably not the first thing he has stolen in his life. He stole that mullet from a possum on the side of the road. That, in and of itself, is a crime.

    1. Pinto Bean says:

      At least he didn’t steal my dead Armadillo here.

  15. gloria says:

    I think the buyer(s) of the copper were on it too.

  16. billy-bob says:

    how exactly did they catch them? also, did their coworkers report them for living above their means (or did they just comment about it after all was said and done)? why would it even mention that?

  17. pdk says:

    Union thugs doing what they do best, stealing from their employer.

  18. Jerry Frey says:

    Throw out the trash.

  19. Jewfromhell says:

    “Have a holly jolly Christmas”!

  20. KickTheKenyanOut2012 says:

    Obama Depression Economy of Hope & Change…

  21. Snake says:

    the left side is the height, the right side is the inverse (-) proportional in the negative aspect of their wangs. Thus this will account for their entry into the life of crime. They have been so busy attempting to “find themselves” they decided to take to copper and have implants. But alas, they went to Thailand and the doctors thought they desire a sex change to be woman instead. Now they cannot find their man in the boat……………………….

  22. stoptouchingthatmabel says:

    This copper thievery is way out of control in my town it was reported that the entire police department was missing and we haven’t been able to locate any of them since.

  23. Brutus says:

    Rednecks love lawn mowers, And imagine what Carribean beach this guy is showing up at in his Speedo.

    This is an easy problem to solve. Just require photo id when “recycling” and payment via check. That way’ there’s a record. Anyone who wants to pay cash still can but then they will be charged for receiving stolen goods if it’s stolen copper. Otherwise, no assumption of no prior knowledge it was stolen..

    1. Pinto Bean says:

      This is how the Pawn Shops have done it here for years.

  24. Morgan says:

    They broke one of the cardinal rules “don’t flash the cash” . . .

  25. Marine Mike says:

    Short, fat, bald, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

  26. MrCymatics says:

    What a Joke. Look at the press these copper thieves are getting on 7 million dollar theft, when the connniving bank CEO’s and currupt thieving politicians ripped of the developed nations of the world for 62 Trillion dollars walk free…..Paaaaaaaalease give me a break….Selling out the middle class workers to the third world economies was theft…where is the press on that theft………

  27. bd maus says:

    Looks like Tim won’t be playing Santa this year! along with his elf friends

  28. Pat says:

    Looks kinda like the Polar Bear off Ice Road Truckers eh?

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