WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — Whether it’s beer kegs, cemetery vases, or copper wire, scrap metal thieves are always on the lookout for something they can turn into cash.

“Scrap metal theft in the area is a huge problem,” says Trooper Matthew Jardine at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Washington County.

No one is immune, says Trooper Jardine. “Pipeline companies, gas line companies, gas well sites, electric companies.”

For scrap metal yard operators, it’s not always easy to tell which customers are legit.

“Right,” say Billy Woods. “Usually the scrap doesn’t come in screaming I’m stolen.”

But that wasn’t the case on Oct. 27.

That day, police say 51-year-old John Williams pulled up to a shed behind a home on Summerlea Avenue and took exhaust pipes, scaffolding and trailer rims and tossed them into his truck. He drove to nearby General Alloys planning to sell the items.

Woods, the yard foreman, was the only one available to handle the incoming scrap, but as he walked over to Williams’ pickup he noticed something.

“I had to take a second look at it. I noticed that it was all my belongings,” said Woods.

Williams denied it.

“I just asked him,” said Woods. “I said, ‘Did you steal this?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s from my yard, so you obviously stole it.’”

Woods was using the parts to rebuild a ’93 GMC Jimmy.

“Probably like $40 to $50 worth of scrap, but if you’re going to buy the parts new, you’re looking at least $600,” Woods said.

Woods called police. Williams told them he found the stuff at curbside for trash. But that was too much for Woods, who is a 29-year-old father of two.

“Meanwhile, I was calling him a liar, and he was telling me he was not a thief,” said Woods. “His teeth come out his mouth while he was screaming.”

Woods says Williams caught his dentures before they hit the ground.

Williams, who is being charged with misdemeanor theft, was not at home to comment.

He will get him summons in the mail.

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