NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Employees of the Orleans Parish Sewerage and Water Board have been accused of systematically stealing brass fittings and selling them to various scrap yards for personal gain.
New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux detailed the findings of an investigation based on computer analytics beginning in January of 2016.
The investigation found that between January 2013 and June 2016, employees sold approximately 34,416 pounds of brass to scrap metal yards in the New Orleans area. The stolen brass was sold for around $1 a pound.
The S&WB purchased these brass fittings at approximately $15.30 a pound which resulted in a loss of $526,565.
Employees would remove the parts from inventory on trucks as a normal part of performing their duties. The parts would then be taken to various scrap yards around the metro New Orleans area.
There are records showing the accused employees signed documents and provided identification at the scrap yards saying the fittings were theirs to sell.
The amount of stolen brass is approximately equivalent to the parts needed to outfit nearly 6,700 homes in Orleans Parish.
It was estimated that the employees were on track to steal over 40,000 pounds before being caught.
Accused employees could be held liable for the actual cost paid by the city of the stolen parts.
All employees involved have been terminated, resigned or retired prior to their termination.
While Quatrevaux stopped short of calling it an organized theft ring, the investigation more employees became aware of the practice.
"Word spread that it was a way to pick up some money," Quatrevaux said.
Sewerage and water board leadership fully cooperated with the investigation, Quatrevaux said.
Cedric Grant, Executive Director of the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans said he is "shocked and appalled by the crimes that have been committed." Grant said.
Grant said the public relies on the S&WB to watch over a vital public resource and "we must be trusted to do the right thing."
"What I'm dealing with is a culture where people think they can do things that they can't," Grant said.