Army investigates theft of $ 2 million in ball bearings

Aug 11 – ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The US military is investigating at least one senior civilian official at White Sands Missile Range and an El Paso contractor for allegedly stealing $ 2 million worth of nickel ball bearings – that’s a whopping 230,000 pounds – used in research on explosives at the range, according to a recently unsealed federal search warrant.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command requested and received the warrant, indicating investigators have probable reason to believe that Randolph Brady, former director of White Sands, and Mario Escobedo, the owner of EGL Construction, and possibly others plotted to steal government property. A return of a search warrant shows that federal authorities seized more than $ 1 million on Monday from a bank account held in the name of Escobedo’s company. No charges have been laid against these two men.

A source in March informed an army investigator that metals were being stolen from the missile range in southern New Mexico, according to the search warrant application, which was filed in U.S. district court Albuquerque.

The document says an investigation revealed that Brady, who was then a senior official at White Sands, hired Escobedo to remove four tanks containing 3/8 inch nickel ball bearings from the Large Blast thermal simulator.

Used in explosives research

The facility has a concrete “shock tube” that can be used to assess the reaction of objects to simulated nuclear or conventional explosions, according to the White Sands website.

The document identifies Brady as the director of the Army’s Testing and Assessment Command. His LinkedIn account indicates that he is the director of the Directorate of Survival, Vulnerability and Assessment. A White Sands Missile Range spokesperson said Brady was no longer working there.

Efforts to reach Brady were unsuccessful.

According to the warrant, Escobedo hired Mountain States Crane, an Albuquerque company, and Maddy Freight Service, a Horizon City, Texas company, to remove and transport the four tanks on March 19 and 20, which each held approximately 58 000 pounds of ball bearings. . So the whole load weighed about 232,000 pounds, which is comparable to the weight of an average blue whale.

The ball bearings were taken to Acme Iron & Metal, a recycling plant in the North Albuquerque Valley.

“In the first place, it was not stolen,” Escobedo said in a brief telephone interview with the Journal on Wednesday. “And it’s not worth $ 2 million.”

He referred further questions to his lawyer, who could not be reached for comment.

Court documents indicated that during an interview with an army investigator, Escobedo confirmed that Brady ordered the removal of the ball bearings and that Acme Iron & Metal sent him wire transfers for $ 1 million. after the delivery of the tanks.

No contract was ever solicited or awarded for the removal of the nickel ball bearings from the stove, according to the affidavit of the search warrant.

Seize $ 1 million

Court documents indicate that between March 31 and June 16, Acme Iron & Metal made seven wire transfers to Escobedo’s bank account, totaling $ 1.4 million. As of June 30, records show the account had a balance of $ 1.1 million. A search warrant filed with the district court shows that on August 9, federal authorities seized just over $ 1 million from Escobedo’s account.

The owners of Acme Iron & Metal and Mountain States Crane could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The owner of Maddy Freight Service, who declined to give his name, said in a telephone interview that he was hired to transfer the materials and his company had completed the job. He said he had not been interviewed by any authority and that the interview with the Journal was the first time he had heard that there was any suspicion about the project. He declined to say who hired him.

“I was just hired to move it. They provided the right documents and we continued with the project,” he said. “I supplied the trucks, they loaded them and took us to where we needed to deliver it and we delivered it at their request and they paid me.”

White Sands officials declined to comment.

“WSMR is unable to comment due to an ongoing investigation at this time,” said Scott Stearns, spokesperson for the missile lineup, in an email. “We can confirm that Randy Brady is no longer employed at the White Sands Rifle Range or with the Army Test and Assessment Command.”

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