PORTLAND, Ore. — Police officers in Portland arrested a man they said has caused millions of dollars in damage stealing copper wire and other metal.
Michael Dean White faces a list of theft, burglary and meth possession charges. Prosecutors and investigators allege he ran a sophisticated operation stealing metal from businesses around the Portland metro area.
From late 2019 through present, prosecutors say White has sold the stolen metal for around $178,000 in cash payments. They estimate the damage has cost business owners several million dollars on the conservative side, and possibly more than 10 million dollars, according to an arrest affidavit filed in White's criminal case.
Greenway Recycling in Northwest Portland was allegedly targeted by White on several occasions. Owner Terrell Garrett said they’ve had problems with theft over the years and were forced to install an electrical fence to try to stop the metal theft.
Garrett said White broke into his business three times. The last time, he almost got away with $50,000 dollars worth of stolen material before police arrived and arrested him. He was later released.
Prosecutors allege White has targeted businesses all over the Portland area, including businesses along Sandy Boulevard to Garrett’s business in the industrial area of Northwest Portland.
Garrett said White got away with over $8,000 worth of copper wire and tools the first two times he broke in.
Oregon law aims to curb metal theft by prohibiting recyclers from paying cash to individuals selling scrap metal. But prosecutors say that White got around that prohibition by registering his own corporation with the state of Oregon, Bestway Metals Recycling, LLC.
"The defendant is a savvy criminal as shown by his efforts to register and use a shell company so that he can be paid in cash for stolen metal," Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit.
White was known to live in a homeless camp near Northeast 33rd Avenue, according to court records. Prosecutors have photos that show piles of stolen metal and wire casings recovered from his truck and trailer. White has a long criminal record going back more than 20 years. He was most recently arrested when police were responding to a burglary call. White was sitting in his truck when police arrived, where they found more than 300 grams of meth on him.