Two Probed in $1-Million Theft of Steel

Times Staff Writer

The former plant manager of a Terminal Island scrap metal yard and a railroad company official are under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department in connection with the theft of 4 million pounds of high-grade steel worth $1 million over the last two years.

A police detective's sworn affidavit filed in court in support of a search warrant also alleges that the railroad official paid a $5,000 "bribe" to a Union Pacific Railroad security officer in an unsuccessful attempt to squelch the investigation into the alleged metal theft ring.

During the four-month investigation, which began Nov. 28, the former scrap metal company manager also attempted to influence the Union Pacific security agent by offering him a job, the affidavit said.

Named in the affidavit as suspects in the grand theft and bribery investigation are Philip G. Walker, 40, the director of harbor operations for Union Pacific, and Forrest T. (Pete) Moore, 66, a former plant manager for National Metal and Steel Corp. on Terminal Island.

Both Men Deny Involvement

Both men denied any involvement in the alleged theft of the steel from the railroad company and any attempts to influence the security agent.

The case has been turned over to the district attorney's special investigations division. In a sworn affidavit, Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Readhimer said Moore, Walker and others "have conspired to steal railroad property from . . . Union Pacific and sell it as scrap metal to National Metal and Steel Corp."

National Metal, a scrap yard that has been in business for 32 years, leases 38 acres of land on Terminal Island from the city Harbor Department.

The affidavit said Walker ordered the steel, which was intended to be used for Union Pacific railroad construction, loaded onto railroad cars and shipped to the Harbor Belt Line, a rail network jointly owned by Union Pacific, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads.

Another Union Pacific employee, who is not a target of the investigation, would then prepare the paper work "to make sure the car went to National Metal and Steel" from the Harbor Belt Line, which services the San Pedro-Long Beach port area, the affidavit said.

Bank Records Searched

Moore "would act as a broker and notify National Metal and Steel Corp. that the car was coming," the affidavit said. "Based on records kept by National Metal and Steel Corp., it appears that (the steel company) would pay for the scrap metal by issuing a check to Pete Moore."

Search warrants for the bank records of Moore and Walker turned up photostats of seven checks written from National Metal to Moore and five checks from Moore to Walker, according to a property report filed along with the affidavit in Municipal Court.

Readhimer's affidavit said that he has seen records from National Metal "indicating that approximately 4 million pounds of the railroad material was purchased as scrap metal during the past two years by National Metal and Steel from Pete Moore."

When asked if criminal charges of receiving stolen property are being considered against officials at National Metal, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Sowders, the special investigations division's head deputy, said, "It's an ongoing investigation."

Moore, when contacted by The Times, accused Readhimer of "witch-hunting," and said:

"Whatever I was doing, I was functioning for National Metals. And I'm not a broker. I'm just a working man. If they're doing something (considering criminal charges against him), then let them do it."

Moore retired last July from National Metal after managing the Los Angeles Harbor bulk loader for the company for the previous 20 years. National Metal operated the bulk loader under a contract with the Harbor Department. The lease was terminated in January, 1984.

A Rolling Hills Estates resident, Moore lists himself as a "self-employed consultant" in his financial statement on file in the county clerk's office. He has an office in San Pedro at Kaiser International's harbor area headquarters. Kaiser took over operation of the bulk loader from National Metal on Jan. 1, 1984.

On Alcoholism Commission

Moore was appointed to the Los Angeles County Commission on Alcoholism last year by Supervisor Deane Dana.

Walker, a Huntington Beach resident who has been furloughed from his duties at Union Pacific pending the outcome of the Police Department's investigation, denied that he was involved in theft of material from the railroad company.

"They were just having a cleanup at the Harbor Belt Line and one car got shoved in by error," Walker said. "So now it's under investigation."

Readhimer's affidavit said Walker called Union Pacific security agent Bob Larsen at home on Nov. 29 and "indicated that he and Pete Moore . . . wanted to talk . . . about squelching the investigation and that they would make it worthwhile for him to do so.

Attempted Bribe Alleged

"Mr. Larsen felt that (Walker and Moore) were going to attempt to bribe him and he wanted no part of that," the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, Larsen agreed to meet with Walker and Moore on Nov. 30. During the meeting, the two men told Larsen that the investigation could be limited to Union Pacific if the allegedly stolen material was returned, the affidavit said.

In addition, "Moore made several statements asking Larsen what he could do to 'hush up' or 'keep quiet' the investigation," the affidavit said.

Larsen was also told by Walker and Moore that they could create a phony invoice to show that the steel was not stolen, the affidavit said. In addition, Moore offered Larsen a job during their meeting, the affidavit said.

"It was a 'no-show' job," Readhimer said in an interview. "All he would have to do is pick up his check every week."

Walker, while at lunch later that day with Larsen, "wrote the figure $5,000 on a cocktail napkin and asked Larsen if that was sufficient" to call off the investigation, according to the affidavit.

The money was paid to Larsen on Dec. 7. Larsen said that Walker told him the money came from "everyone" involved in the operation, the affidavit said.

Walker denied attempting to bribe Larsen.

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