Baltimore Warehouse Owners Plead Guilty in Scheme to Steal $1 Million of Nickel Imported into the Port of Baltimore

April 23, 2012


Baltimore, Maryland - Gregg Lee Purbaugh, age 50, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today and his business partner, Kenneth Trainum, age 44, also of Baltimore, pleaded guilty on April 20, 2012, to conspiring to transport stolen nickel briquettes stored next to their warehouse, which had been imported through the Port of Baltimore.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to their plea agreements, Purbaugh and Trainum opened Bear Creek Warehouse Company in 2006. Their primary customer was an international mining company that shipped cargo containers of nickel to the Port of Baltimore from its mines outside the United States, then stored the nickel in the Bear Creek Warehouse. Beginning in 2006, Purbaugh and Trainum began removing the mining company’s nickel from the warehouse, setting it aside to sell later. In June 2006, Purbaugh approached a co-conspirator to sell the nickel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The co-conspirator contacted the owner of a Pittsburgh scrap metal company who agreed to purchase the nickel from the co-conspirator.

From 2006 through 2011, Purbaugh sold the co-conspirator a total of 80,000 pounds of nickel worth approximately $1 million, for the scrap metal price of $8 per pound. Purbaugh arranged the delivery of the nickel with the co-conspirator and the scrap metal dealer. Purbaugh then arranged for his driver, who lives near Pittsburgh, to drive a truck to the warehouse, which Trainum then loaded with the stolen nickel. Each load typically contained 6,000 pounds of nickel and the shipments took place at least twice a year. The co-conspirator paid Purbaugh in cash, which he divided with Trainum.

On November 2, 2011, agents from Homeland Security Investigations saw the driver enter the Bear Creek Warehouse parking lot. Purbaugh unlocked a shipping container adjacent to the warehouse that contained unmarked sacks of nickel briquettes. Trainum removed one of the sacks of nickel with a fork lift and loaded it onto the truck. While Trainum was unloading a second bag of nickel, HSI agents intervened and secured the stolen nickel. During the subsequent search, agents recovered 15 bags containing approximately 30,000 pounds of nickel which had been diverted from the mining company’s shipments.

Purbaugh and Trainum each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for Trainum and Purbaugh on August 9, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., respectively.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory R. Bockin and Martin J. Clarke, who are prosecuting the case.

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