Metal Thieves Strike Tulsa Landmark

Friday, September 16th 2011, 10:33 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Golden Driller is missing some top brass. Deputies say James Robinson and Matthew Stamper pried off two giant brass plaques from the statue and tried to sell the pieces for scrap.

The latest arrests made by Operation Copperhead, a law enforcement task force, are proof the program is working. But the criminals definitely helped seal their own fates.

9/8/2011 Related Story: Copper Thieves Slowly Dismantle Tulsa's Infrastructure

After the thieves mugged the Driller Man, they took the loot to CMC Recycling. Surveillance photos shows one thief stayed with the truck. Another was caught on camera trying to sell a bundled-up stack of brass.

"The individual selling it didn't even act nervous," said Matt Bell of CMC Recycling. "Our scale operator at the time, he took the material and he put it together like you would a puzzle."

The plaques were cut into puzzle pieces, but when you put it together, it clearly says Golden Driller.

"Sometimes we don't catch them because they're smart. It says right on there - Tulsa Golden Driller," said Chief Tulsa County Deputy Tim Albin.

The recycling company immediately handed over the video and a copy of Robinson's driver's license to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, and sent the suspects on their way.

"We're giving them leads. They're giving us leads. We're working with them. When we get something that looks suspicious we'll call and say, 'Hey, we have this here,'" Bell said.

After the recyclers turned them away, the thieves apparently went home and started grinding down all the letters on the plaque to get rid of the evidence.

"So that they could probably go to another metal recycler and sell it as scrap metal," Albin said.

But deputies were already on the trail, and now Stamper and Robinson are behind bars. Their arrests sent a message to would-be metal thieves.

"These businesses aren't interested in buying stolen merchandise," Albin said.

Their golden plan was foiled, but the plaques are damaged past repair. Now, Tulsa's icon is now a little less iconic.

If the plan had worked, the thieves would have made $460 off the metal.

The Expo Center employees didn't realize the plaques were missing, because at that point, the Golden Driller was dressed in a kilt for a special event.

A banner about the kilt covered up the part of the derrick where the plaques were mounted.