Metal thieves arrested in closed Albany distillery - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Metal thieves arrested in closed Albany distillery

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –Thieves caused more than $100,000 in damage to a closed East Albany liquor distillery.

Dougherty County Sheriff's investigators arrested three men and a woman inside the Viking Distillery on East Broad Avenue Friday.

They were dismantling the factory for the metal.

Sheriff's Investigators say they are not sure how long these bold metal thieves have been at work, probably more than a month because they had put a lot of time and thought into how to take apart the huge tanks used to distill liquor.

The Viking Distillery has been closed for about a year and a half, and sheriff's investigators say it's the Holy Grail for metal thieves. Four stories of huge stainless steel tanks and valves. Giant copper pipes and lines that carried liquor through the state's first legal liquor producer.

And the thieves have been busy.

Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Captain Craig Dodd said "An estimation would probably be in excess of one hundred thousand dollars in damage.

Investigators got a tip that thieves were in the building Thursday, and when they rode by saw people running.

They returned Friday and caught four people stripping metal from the plant.

Dodd said "We got in a rather lively foot chase through the inside and the outside of the factory. Over the roofs and the cat walks. What have you, and apprehended four suspects.

The three men and a woman are charged with felony theft and criminal damage.

Investigators say they were impressed by the rope system that the thieves had installed inside the plant to handle the tons of metal.

Dodd said "they had ropes set up in a pulley system to lower down the large stainless steel containers from the third floor. Down through the catwalk system. That was something I haven't seen since the service, as far as the type of knots they were using."

Investigators are now looking for more people involved in the metal theft ring, and tracing the sales of metal at salvage yards to see just how much metal was stolen from this factory.

Sheriff's Investigators say if the metal thieves had put their work to legitimate use, they might have been good at legitimate construction work.  But now they are behind bars at the Dougherty County jail.

The plant is owned by Lacex-USA Incorporated,  a company based in South America.

Economic development officials have been trying to market the plant for another owner.

Investigators say the owners have now hired security to protect the property.

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