Three men, including one current and one retired ATI-Allegheny Ludlum employee, are accused of the theft, and police say it is not the first time the men have stolen nickel from the company.
State police arrested retired Ludlum steelworker Paul John Eberhardt, 52, of West Franklin, Armstrong County; Ludlum forklift operator Kenneth Scott Hill, 46, of Spring Church, Kiski Township; and Timothy Howard Angely, 44, of Tarentum, a driver for Don Martin Trucking in Saxonburg.
Each of the men was charged on Thursday with theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit theft of 17,636 pounds — more than 8 1/2 tons — of nickel briquettes that were sold to a scrap yard in Lawrenceville.
Troopers went to the scrap yard on Friday to talk with its owners about the case. They have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Nickel is a raw material that Allegheny Ludlum uses to make steel alloys.
State police Lt. Tom Dubovi said Trooper Steven Liston traced the steel from the scrap yard to a plant in Texas.
Dubovi said police believe Hill used the forklift to load large bags of nickel into a trash container.
Investigators believe Angely later arrived in a truck to empty the trash container and drive away with the stolen goods. The men then separated the nickel from the scrap either at Eberhardt’s residence in West Franklin or at an old strip mine in Armstrong County, police said.
ATI spokesman Dan Greenfield declined to comment about Eberhardt or Hill.
The 17,600 pounds of nickel were in four white “super sacks” taken from the steel mill along River Road between 6 p.m. Oct. 14 and 8 a.m. Oct. 17, police said.
Each sack weighs slightly more than 4,400 pounds and has a value of almost $9 a pound.
Police said the nickel was sold to the Lawrenceville scrap yard, which sold it to a company in Terrell, Texas.
Scrap yard owners could not be reached for comment.
Eberhardt, Hill and Angely admitted stealing nickel from the mill on previous occasions, Dubovi said.
The trio was arraigned in Night Court and released on $25,000 bond each to await a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday.