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18 indicted in massive AZ copper theft

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Eighteen people have been indicted in a multi-million dollar copper theft ring at an Arizona mine that he says relied on inside help, Attorney General Tom Horne said Tuesday.

"This is a stunning example of theft on a massive scale," Horne said.

The case began after the September traffic stop of a truck carrying nearly $180,000 of raw copper stolen from the Asarco mine in Hayden.

The Department of Public Safety said Asarco, LLC employees were involved in the theft of nearly $10 million of the metal. Defendants who had been working at the mine have been fired.

Rene Arbizo and Gene Garcia were supervisors at the mine and played critical roles in the thefts, DPS said. Both Arbizo and Garcia face 10 felony counts each as a result of the investigation.

The remaining 16 suspects face numerous charges, including illegally conducting an enterprise, conspiracy, money laundering, fraudulent schemes and artifices and theft.

Some of the defendants are accused of driving the copper loads to recyclers in California and Arizona, who would buy it for a fraction of market value.

The attorney general said the recyclers would blacken the copper so it could pass easily through customs on its way to China.

"For these defendants to abuse their positions at a mining producer and allow this valuable resource to be stolen and resold on the black market is unconscionable," Horne said.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved.  CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.

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