Aberdeen Proving Ground workers indicted for massive metal theft

Four civilians working at Aberdeen Proving Ground were indicted Friday on charges they stole more than 50,000 pounds of government copper and aluminum, worth $212,000, from the U.S. Army facility.

Electricians Timothy J. Bittner, 52, of Bel Air; Steven M..Coale, 33, of North East; and Robert W. Reynolds, 29, of Felton, Pa. are charged in one indictment with conspiracy and theft for allegedly stealing more than 25,000 pounds of copper fixtures and wire, then selling it to metal recyclers in Maryland and surrounding states for $87,000.

Patrol boat operator Ronald Phillips Baker Sr., 62, of Havre de Grace, is charged in a separate indictment with two counts of theft. He’s accused of swiping 2,700 pounds of aluminum — in the form of outriggers used to test “mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles” — worth roughly $110,000 in one instance, and more than 27,000 pounds of the metal, worth about $15,000, on other occasions.

“The indictments should send a strong message that this type of egregious behavior — allegations of theft while supposedly working on the Government clock, to include even stripping active copper wire from an APG building — will not be tolerated,” Robert Craig, Special Agent in Charge for the Mid-Atlantic field office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Bittner, Coale and Reynolds were all working at the Department of Public Works at Aberdeen, according to the indictment against them, and used their skills as electricians, along with government equipment, to pull wire out of buildings while on the job from March 2011 through November of that year.

Baker, who patrolled the Chesapeake Bay to make sure no one strayed into waters used for weapons testing, is accused of taking the outriggers in April of this year, and the remaining aluminum over a 19-month period beginning in September 2010.

All four defendants face up to 10 years in prison for theft of government property. Bittner, Reynolds and Coale also face up to five years in prison for conspiracy.

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