Prince George's residents indicted for plastic pallet theft
$400,000 in containers stolen; highlights nationwide problem, state's attorney says
Five area residents were indicted Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $400,000 in plastic containers from local businesses, part of a nationwide pallet theft problem that has cost businesses millions of dollars, said Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
James Edward Lipson, 37, of Washington, D.C., Yvonne Lipson, 27, of Landover; Peter Amaefule, 48, of Fort Washington; Ofer Tsauch, 44, of Hyattsville; and Myron Nelson, 42, of Leonardtown all were indicted.
Ivey held a press conference Thursday inside Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. in Capitol Heights, standing with representatives from affected businesses that lost millions of dollars from thefts in the past year to address what they said is a nationwide problem of plastic pallet theft from bakery, dairy and soft drink businesses. Plastic pallets are recyclable sheets of plastic used to transport and store food products.
There were 17 counts of theft among all five defendants, and each count carries up to 15 years in jail, Ivey said.
Coca-Cola Enterprises, as well as Pepsi-Cola and Baltimore-based companies H&S Bakery and Cloverland Dairy, combined lost nearly $6 million in 2008 from plastic pallet theft, according to the state's attorney's office.
Multiple businesses, including Coca-Cola, enlisted the help of James Rood, a private investigator with Pylesville-based J.R. Investigative Services. Rood observed employees of the G.E.G. Recycling Co. taking pallets from several companies into its Landover warehouse on Pennsy Drive, according to court documents.
"We wanted to be sure to help provide the case for how sophisticated this issue is," said Curtis Etherly Jr., vice president of public affairs for the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Both Nelson and Tsauch, owners of G.E.G. Recycling, were repeatedly warned by Prince George's County police not to take returnable containers without another company's permission, court documents state. James and Yvonne Lipson were both arrested June 15 for taking plastic trays from behind a Giant Food supermarket, and James Lipson stated he was paid by G.E.G. Recycling in Landover to pick up containers and deliver them to the Landover facility, court documents state.
Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier, who also works in the state's attorney's office, was the lead prosecutor when the investigation came into the office in May. An open search warrant was served to G.E.G. Recycling in July, court documents state.
"There is a real penalty," Niemann said. "It's a crime, and you get treated as a criminal."
Amaefule, who does not appear to be affiliated with G.E.G. Recycling, is charged with stealing plastic pallets from Safeway Inc., Shoppers Food Warehouse, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Pepsi Bottling Group and H&S Bakery.
Thieves typically steal the pallets in the middle of the night and take them to a recycler for a profit, Rood said Thursday. The recycler then sends the pallets to a shredder and the plastic is sent back to the manufacturer to make new pallets, he added.
No attorneys were listed Thursday for James Lipson, Amaefule, Tsauch or Nelson in online Prince George's County District Court records.
An attorney listed for Yvonne Lipson could not immediately be reached Thursday evening.
E-mail Natalie McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org.