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County searches recycling centers for stolen goods

A Contra Costa County task force on Tuesday executed search warrants at seven recycling centers and junk dealers that have apparently purchased stolen metals and other materials, the district attorney's office announced.

The search warrants were served after a sting operation in which undercover agents sold copper wire and communications cables provided by utilities and railroad companies to local recycling businesses and junk dealers.

Seven recycling centers in the county failed to exercise due diligence in purchasing the materials, and failed to comply with state law, according to the district attorney's office.

The investigation was carried out by a task force that included the district attorney's and sheriff's offices, PG&E, AT&T, Union Pacific Railroad, BART, the CHP and local police agencies.

Law enforcement officers on Tuesday searched the recycling businesses, scouring their yards for contraband and examining company records, according to the district attorney's office.

The sting operation was prompted by a rise in copper thefts throughout the county.

A statement from the district attorney's office describes the suspects involved in such thefts as "individuals and organized groups motivated by the quick sale of stolen metals."

The recycling centers targeted in Tuesday's search warrant operation appear to have knowingly purchased stolen metals and profited from the transactions, district attorney's officials said.

The operation was meant to cut off the profit sources for metal thieves and force recycling companies to comply with the law, District Attorney Mark Peterson said.

The district attorney's office will release further details about the sting at a 3 p.m. news conference today.

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