West Deer police stop nets $200K in bottle-making molds

Brass bottle mold parts recovered by West Deer police.
Brass bottle mold parts recovered by West Deer police.
Chuck Biedka
| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

Two West Deer police officers are credited with confiscating at least $200,000 worth of parts for a bottle-making machine stolen in Shaler.

Sgt. Frank Huffman was driving to a call in mid-June when he spotted a West Deer man, Michael Currie, 26, of Russellton, who was wanted for burglary by Northern Regional police, driving an SUV. Huffman, assisted by Patrolman Brian Dobson, pulled Currie over.

West Deer police knew Currie — they had arrested him several times. They knew he uses the alias of Michael Curry and has been charged under that name. But police said they were intrigued by what was inside Currie's vehicle.

Police spied hundreds of gleaming softball-sized, semi-circular brass machine parts on their way to the scrap yard. The 600 or so pounds of brass alloy would fetch $1.80 per pound at a scrap yard — far less than their value as precision parts.

When they counted, there were 640 individual parts.

“We knew they were machined, but we didn't know what they were used for or where they came from. So we didn't have a victim,” Chief Jon Lape said. “We at first thought maybe they were used in drilling. Maybe they came from a Marcellus shale driller.”

Dobson took photos and turned to the Internet to solve the mystery.

That's when Shaler police got involved.

Long before he became a Shaler police officer, David F. Benko worked at the Glenshaw Glass factory. He immediately recognized the valuable mystery brass.

“It was 320 pairs of bottle mold neck rings,” said Benko, now a detective with 36 years wearing a badge.

The molds are used to form glass bottles for screw top lids, he said.

Benko knew someone had broken into the Kellman Bottles plant, at 1101 William Flynn Highway, Shaler — three times.

Huffman said the mold neck rings were returned to the company. Currie will have to pay for the hundreds he is accused of taking in earlier trips to the plant.

A company official wasn't available for comment.

“We appreciate the information that helped our investigation,” Benko said.

“This was simply good police work,” Lape said Friday.

On Thursday, Currie waived to court three charges each of burglary, theft and receiving stolen property.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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