Man charged with possessing load of illegal copper

NORCROSS -- Police arrested a Norcross man this week who laid claim to a van full of copper and catalytic converters -- prized materials among thieves, authorities said.

Police identified Jesus Estrada-Ordaz, 45, as a secondary metals recycler and charged him with two felonies for allegedly failing to document his purchases.

A Gwinnett police officer stumbled on the suspect's 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 van while recovering a stolen vehicle at the Los Colinas apartments near Norcross.

The van was so stuffed with metals it was sagging, the officer noted in a report.

Estrada-Ordaz told police he purchased old cars and collected catalytic converters, but balked at explaining "how he came into possession of the huge pile of copper wire," the officer wrote.

He could provide no receipts or paperwork to prove he'd legitimately bought the materials, police said.

Estrada-Ordaz is charged with not keeping required records of transactions and illegally paying for copper, catalytic converters or aluminum.

Police throughout Georgia have dealt with an increase in precious metal theft in recent years as payouts at scrap metal yards spiked as much as 300 percent.

Georgia legislators enacted a law in 2007 that makes stealing and selling anything from beer kegs to copper tubing a felony if the metal is worth more than $500.

Estrada-Ordaz remained jailed Thursday on $6,400 bond.