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Local business man busted for metal theft
Forrest Eugene Owens, 64, pled not guilty June 1 in Kitsap County Superior Court to three counts of trafficking in stolen property in the second degree and one county of money laundering.
Owens was arrested May 31 following a six-month investigation by the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office and the Poulsbo Police Department that culminated with police executing a search warrant at the shop in the 4100 Block of M Street.
Law enforcement officials say that they became aware of the "business" during a number of unrelated theft and burglary investigations.
"The operator of the scrap metal business appeared to be well known among persons associated with criminal activity as an easy and safe location to sell stolen metal products," states a sheriff's office press release.
Police say that Owens does not have a business license and admittedly does not pay taxes on his profits. The investigation revealed that he has sold over $400,000 worth of scrap metal to a legitimate Tacoma scrap metal yard in the last two years. In the last two months, Owens is alleged to have sold them over $44,000 in scrap metal.
While serving the search warrant, detectives seized several thousand dollars worth of ferrous and non ferrous metal, cash and a felony amount of marijuana. Additionally, detectives seized four Washington State Quest cards and are following up with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to determine who the cards are issued to.
Police say that Owens admitted that he had suspected some of the metals he had purchased might be stolen.
As detectives were searching the property, many "customers" arrived throughout the day in vehicles and on foot with metal to sell. Some of the customers came from far away as Jefferson County. Many of these people had criminal convictions. Some of these customers were arrested when it was determined they had outstanding arrest warrants.
The restrictions and requirements set out by the Revised Code of Washington and Kitsap County code attempt to regulate scrap metal businesses in such a way as to prevent the sale of stolen property to scrap metal dealers. During this investigation, detectives oversaw a number of controlled deliveries of suspicious metal objects seized in prior theft and burglary investigations to the "M" Street scrap metal dealer.
Police say Owens purchased the metal without question and without abiding by a number of requirements set out by the law implemented to prevent the acceptance of stolen property.
According to police, Kitsap County has seen an increase in the number of burglary and theft reports related to metal over the last year. Metal theft has become more of a problem throughout Kitsap County and many other jurisdictions. Suspects have been extracting and stealing copper pipes and wiring from the walls of residences that suspects have burglarized, in addition to any metal of value they can find (copper, brass, aluminum, etc).
Police say that metal thefts from retail stores have also increased and there's been a dramatic increase in the number of burglaries and metal thefts from public and private utility companies. Additionally, thieves have gone so far as to desecrate grave markers by stealing brass or copper headstone attachments and urns from local cemeteries.