UPDATE: West End Recycling owner avoids jail, but offers no apology for actions

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UPDATE 7/11/16 @ 4:35 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The first person ever convicted in West Virginia of organized crime has avoided prison.

Prosecutors say William “Bill” Smith bought enough scrap metal from drug addicts to buy 1,600 doses of heroin. But it took the right theft for investigators to prove a case they had suspected for more than a decade.

"But for your age and your illness, you'd be going to prison," said Cabell Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell.

Smith, 80, needed help making it to the defense table.

His old business, West End Recycling in Huntington, is closed for good. It's the first to ever be shut down under state laws prohibiting organized crime.

Assistant Prosecutor Joe Fincham tells WSAZ heroin addicts would steal metal, knowing they could easily sell it to Smith's business to buy their next fix.

"When I ran the numbers, it was staggering," Fincham said.

As he prepared the case, he said he added up for one addict how much money was spent on the drugs.

“The damage that it did to his body and to our community, there aren’t words to describe it,” Fincham said.

In court, Smith apologized for missing his sentencing last month when he confused the time. But that was his only apology.

"Are you sorry sir for the many, many year that you received stolen property that cost people hundreds of thousands of dollars?" asked Judge Farrell.

Smith responded with, “Your honor” and a large sigh, before saying he had been too ill during the last several years to make it to his business very often.

"I don't think that he's shown any remorse today or throughout this process,” Fincham said. “He even asked to take a Kennedy plea instead of a guilty plea because he wasn't willing to admit what he did was a crime."

Fincham provided one other staggering number in court Monday. There used to be an average of more than 20 metal thefts a month around town, most untraceable for investigators. But since West End was closed, there's been an average of less than one a month.

Outside court, Smith nor his attorney had anything to say. But a few steps later, his wife added, "I wish our name was Clinton."

Smith faced up to a decade in prison Monday. He instead got a suspended sentence of three years, with two years of probation and restitution of $200,000. In a separate case, West End Recycling was sentenced to pay $12,500.

Fincham said Smith paid $75,000 of restitution Monday. The plea agreement calls for $25,000 to be paid in the next six months and the last $100,000 within 18 months.

“We are pleased with the results obviously,” Fincham said. “We secured the conviction of the first organized crime in the history of West Virginia."

Prosecutors tell us police suspected Smith and West End Recycling of buying stolen property for years, but it wasn't until 22,000 pounds of rare nickel was stolen from the Special Metals facility in Huntington that they could make their case.

Fincham said it was important to prosecute people who help provide the economic conditions that make drugs possible.

“With this type of problem, you have to have a systemic approach because it’s a systemic problem,” Fincham said.

He adds he hopes this case sends a message that if any business or person, whether recycling company or pawn shop, knowingly buys stolen property, they will be prosecuted.



UPDATE 7/11/16 @ 2:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – An elderly business owner from Huntington avoided jail time during his sentencing hearing Monday afternoon.

In April, William "Bill" Smith, 80, the owner of West End Recycling, entered a Kennedy plea to the charge of engaging in an organized crime.

On behalf of West End Recycling, Smith also entered a guilty plea to five counts of receiving stolen scrap metal. The business will have all assets sold off to help pay for fines and restitution owed to various businesses which had property stolen and sold to West End Recycling.

Prosecutors say this case involved one of the largest operations involving stolen property in the area. They said for decades, most of the property was stolen by drug addicts to fuel their habits

Monday afternoon. Judge Paul Ferrell gave Smith a three year suspended jail sentence along two years’ probation.

Smith must also pay $200, 000 in restitution, He paid $75,000 of that Monday. Ferrell said he gave the suspended sentence because of Smith’s age and health.

Smith was supposed to be sentenced last month, but his attorney said he was confused on the time for the hearing.

Monday Smith apologized for the missing court date, but not for the charges because he paid fair market price for the goods, and did not make a lot of money off sales.



UPDATE 6/14/16 @ 10:15 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A business owner charged with running West Virginia's first organized crime failed to show up for sentencing Tuesday morning in Cabell County Circuit Court.

In April, William "Bill" Smith, 79, the owner of West End Recycling,
entered a Kennedy plea to the charge of engaging in an organized crime.

On behalf of West End Recycling, Smith also entered a guilty plea to five counts of receiving stolen scrap metal. The business will have all assets sold off to help pay for fines and restitution owed to various businesses which had property stolen and sold to West End Recycling.

Smith's attorney told the court that his client thought the sentencing was set for Tuesday afternoon.

Under the plea agreement Smith faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $25,000, must forfeit the business license for West End Recycling, and pay restitution of $200,000. He is also not allowed to seek a business license in the state.

Assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham says Smith is supposed to make a $75,000 restitution payment at sentencing, but he says Smith is not prepared to do so until he can sell some of the legally purchased cooper that was seized during the investigation.

A payment schedule has been set for Smith and his sentencing was reset for July 11 at 1:30 p.m.

Prosecutors say this case involved one of the largest operations involving stolen property in the area. For decades, most of the property was stolen by drug addicts to fuel their habits so with this conviction it will cut off a huge funding resource for the drug epidemic, according to Fincham.



UPDATE 4/18/16 @ 3:35 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Prosecutors say It's the first case ever in West Virginia where a business owner was shut down under state law for organized crime.

The owner of West End Recycling, William "Bill" Smith, entered a Kennedy Plea to the charge of engaging in an organized crime during a hearing in Cabell County Circuit Court Monday afternoon.

Under the plea agreement Smith, 79, faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $25,000, must forfeit the business license of West End Recycling, never allowed to seek a business license in the state in addition to paying restitution of $200,000.

On behalf of West End Recycling, Smith entered a guilty plea to five counts of receiving stolen scrap metal. The business will have all assets sold off to help pay for fines and restitution owed to various businesses which had property stolen and sold to West End Recycling.

Assistant Prosecutor Joe Fincham says this case is a rare opportunity to shut down one of the largest operations involving stolen property in the area. For decades most of this property was stolen by drug addicts to fuel their habits so with this conviction Fincham says this will cut off a huge funding resource for the drug epidemic.

Fincham says the shutting down of West End Recycling will greatly reduce the number of copper thefts.

"The reason there was so much copper theft was because everybody knew there was a place to take it. They knew if you stole copper you could take it to West End recycling and turn it into money for your next fix. No longer is that the case," Fincham said.

Smith will be back in court June 14 for sentencing.

In May 2015, a Cabell County grand jury indicted West End Recycling and Smith on 200 counts that include receiving stolen scrap metal, conspiracy to commit a felony, and engaging in an organized criminal enterprise.

Following the indictment, the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office, West Virginia State Police and Huntington Police executed a search warrant at the business. Crews removed the scales from the business, along with at least a dozen large boxes of items.



UPDATE 6/9/15 @ 10:30 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The owner of a Huntington recycling center, who was recently indicted in what prosecutors describe as an organized criminal enterprise, made his initial court appearance Tuesday morning.

On May 29, a Cabell County grand jury indicted West End Recycling in Huntington and its owner, William Smith, on 200 counts that include receiving stolen scrap metal, conspiracy to commit a felony, and engaging in an organized criminal enterprise.

Smith and the company were arraigned on the charges during a brief court appearance in Cabell County Circuit Court. Smith, his wife and lawyer had no comment as they were leaving the hearing. His wife also tried to block our camera crew from taking video of Mr. Smith.

Smith is expected back in court next month. His bond was set at $100,000. The bond for the company was set at $250,000

Last Friday, the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office, West Virginia State Police and Huntington Police executed a search warrant at the business. Crews removed the scales from the business, along with at least a dozen large boxes of items from the facility.

Keep clicking on WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/5/15 @ 12:05 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Cabell County Prosecutor's Office, West Virginia State Police and Huntington Police Department are executing a search warrant at West End Recycling.

Last week, a 200-count indictment was handed down, charging the business and operator, William Smith with receiving stolen scrap metal. Smith was also indicted by a grand jury for engaging in an organized criminal enterprise.

Cabell County Prosecutor Corky Hammers tells WSAZ they are executing a search warrant and pulling things from the business that were obviously stolen items.

Crews on the scene say they have removed the scales from the business, so they will no longer be able to operate. They have also loaded up at least a dozen large boxes of items they believe to be stolen.

The indictment period covers transactions made at the Huntington facility between Sept. 19, 2012 to Feb. 24, 2015. The indictment, charges West End Recycling and Smith with allegedly purchasing and receiving scrap metals that authorities have reasonable belief were stolen. The indictment also alleged that Smith directed other employees to accept and process metals that were possibly stolen.

Three major transactions were a large focus of the indictments. The first was categorized in the indictment as the "The Nickel Period." This period pertains to nickel transactions made at West End Recycling between Sept. 19, 2012 to Aug. 20, 2013.

The indictment states that 22,853 pounds of nickel valued at $168,591.92 was processed through West End Recycling during that period. The indictment alleges that it was stolen nickel collected by two employees of Special Metals in Huntington. It was a rare nickel that is 99 percent pure and generally not accessible to the public. The indictment alleges that Smith had reason to know that the metal was stolen, but processed it anyway.

The second major series of transactions outlined in the indictment was called the "Copper Period" between Jan. 2, 2014 to Feb. 24, 2015. The indictment alleges that large amounts of stolen copper wiring from various telecommunications lines in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky were processed at the plant with Smith's approval.

According to the indictment, 51,338 pounds of copper wire valued at $150,909.23 was processed during that time at West End Recycling.

The third major transaction outlined in the indictment detailed a large amount of communication lines belonging to Frontier Communications that was allegedly processed at the plant on Oct. 27, 2014. The indictment alleges that 250 feet of 24-gauge copper telecommunication lines belonging to Frontier Communications was processed at the plant. It was valued at $6,324 and allegedly stolen from poles in the 3800 block of McCoy Road in Huntington.

"We hope to send a message out," Hammers said. "We will not stop here with this establishment. If we have to we'll hit others because we feel it's, in my opinion, just an ongoing problem with scrap metal dealers and even pawn shops, knowingly taking in stolen merchandise so the person who recycles can get a quick buck and go use drugs."

Keep clicking on WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



UPDATE 6/1/15 @ 5:42 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Court documents accuse West End Recycling and operator William "Bill" Smith, of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen metals, including copper and nickel.

Now, we're learning some of the people who brought the stolen stuff, worked for the places they stole it from.

Those documents show several of the people listed in the 200-count indictment had at one point worked for either Special Metals in Huntington, a major theft victim in the case, or West End Recycling.

WSAZ's Dan Griffin looked through pages of the 200-count indictment packet.

Inside, prosecutors allege Smith, the operator of the business, conspired with several people to receive stolen scrap metal to make big bucks.

This all happened from 2012 to 2015, according to the documents.

We've learned several former employees of Special Metals are listed in the packet as being part of the process.

The documents listed those employees as Thomas Smith, Dara Briggs and James Petrie, who were indicted last year, or early this year on their own charges related to big thefts.

Those all came before this major 200-count indictment was unsealed.

Some their thefts, listed in the new indictment, totaled more than $150,000.

We also looked into several others listed in this recent indictment, Brian Hayes and Randy Curry, who were also indicted earlier this year on thefts.

Court documents show they told investigators they specifically took stolen metals to West End Recycling because Hayes used to work there and they'd take it without question.

We looked through separate indictment documents from February 2015 linked to Hayes and Curry.

We found investigators said Hayes told them the thefts at that time were because of a $400-a-day heroin habit.

In this latest indictment, court documents said Hayes and Curry stole copper wiring from telecommunications lines in Ohio and Kentucky.

Several of those cases involving former employees, ended with guilty pleas and sentences of some jail time, restitution and probation.

Frontier Communications was one of the companies also listed as a theft victim in the case.

A spokesperson for Frontier released this statement about the thefts:

“Copper thieves place the safety and well-being of entire communities at risk, and we are grateful that local authorities are taking action to protect the public and the considerable investments that Frontier and other employers have made. Frontier will continue to cooperate with local authorities to deter this sort of incident. We invite individuals with knowledge of copper theft to contact us toll free at 1-800-590-6605. Callers can leave information anonymously, and the Frontier security staff will ensure confidentiality.”

WSAZ wanted to know if the city was able to close West End Recycling because of this latest indictment, and they said it isn't as easy as you might think.

"As it relates to fees, they are still current, however, as it relates to business and occupation taxes, the city does have the ability to withdraw a business' license, if they are delinquent, and if a business is operating without a license, then the city has the power to issue a cease and desist order," said Bryan Chambers, a spokesperson for the City of Huntington.

Chambers also told WSAZ, they can also send a business a cease and desist order for chronic nuisance, but that wouldn't apply in this case.

We also spoke with the Cabell County Prosecutor who told us he is exploring options to shut the business down.

He said he cannot speak on specifics yet, but we will follow up with him.

We reached out to Special Metals for comment, but our calls were not returned.

We also reached out to the operator of West End Recycling for comment, but were told they had no comment.

We'll keep trying.

Keep clicking on WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for more on this story.



ORIGINAL STORY 5/29/15 @ 5:13 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A local recycling center and its operator are indicted in what prosecutors are calling an organized criminal enterprise.

West End Recycling in Huntington and its operator, William Smith, were indicted Friday on 200 counts of receiving stolen scrap metal. Smith was also indicted by a grand jury for engaging in an organized criminal enterprise.

The indictment period covers transactions made at the Huntington facility between Sept. 19, 2012 to Feb. 24, 2015. The indictment, released Friday, charges West End Recycling and Smith with allegedly purchasing and receiving scrap metals that authorities have reasonable belief were stolen. The indictment also alleged that Smith directed other employees to accept and process metals that were possibly stolen.

Three major transactions were a large focus of the indictments. The first was categorized in the indictment as the "The Nickel Period." This period pertains to nickel transactions made at West End Recycling between Sept. 19, 2012 to Aug. 20, 2013.

The indictment states that 22,853 pounds of nickel valued at $168,591.92 was processed through West End Recycling during that period. The indictment alleges that it was stolen nickel collected by two employees of Special Metals in Huntington. It was a rare nickel that is 99 percent pure and generally not accessible to the public. The indictment alleges that Smith had reason to know that the metal was stolen, but processed it anyway.

The second major series of transactions outlined in the indictment was called the "Copper Period" between Jan. 2, 2014 to Feb. 24, 2015. The indictment alleges that large amounts of stolen copper wiring from various telecommunications lines in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky were processed at the plant with Smith's approval.

According to the indictment, 51,338 pounds of copper wire valued at $150,909.23 was processed during that time at West End Recycling.

The third major transaction outlined in the indictment detailed a large amount of communication lines belonging to Frontier Communications that was allegedly processed at the plant on Oct. 27, 2014. The indictment alleges that 250 feet of 24-gauge copper telecommunication lines belonging to Frontier Communications was processed at the plant. It was valued at $6,324 and allegedly stolen from poles in the 3800 block of McCoy Road in Huntington.

West End Recycling Inc. and William Smith will receive a summons to appear in court before Judge Paul Farrell. It doesn't appear that a court date has been set at this point.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.




 
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