BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Some are calling it one of the most expensive heists in Baltimore history.  Millions of dollars worth of raw metal materials were stolen from an East Baltimore warehouse company in September and now federal authorities are pointing the finger at a 65-year-old Baltimore man.

Derek Valcourt has more on the allegations.

The suspect was arrested just before he was apparently planning to leave the country for Israel after authorities say his scheme to profit off of millions of dollars worth of stolen metals went wrong.

You have to know where in East Baltimore to find metal and mineral import company S.H. Bell.  Thieves knew there were four shipping containers full of valuable nickel briquettes and another two containers full of a metal called  ferrochrome stored in the company’s lot over Labor Day weekend.

“Somebody cut through our fence and actually removed six of the containers,” said Rusty Davis.

In all, $2.6 million worth of stolen metals–146 metric tons.  City police began investigating but an email to a company in Switzerland gave them a break in the case.  In it, 65-year-old Alan Verschleisser of Baltimore tried to sell the Switzerland company 20 tons of nickel.

That email led a private investigator hired by the victim’s company to a rundown warehouse owned by Verschleisser on Baker Street in West Baltimore.  The investigator said he saw some of the stolen goods in a truck and immediately called police.

“The police responded, they stopped the truck and they found a large quantity of the stolen nickel in the back of the truck,” said Rod Rosenstein.

Maryland U.S. attorney Rosenstein hopes the criminal complaints filed by his office against Verschleisser send a message.

“We need to reassure people that it’s safe to do business here and in order to do that, we need to assure them that if anybody is the victim of a significant commercial theft such as this one, that we are willing to use federal resources to pursue the perpetrators and recover the property,” Rosenstein said.

“We’re relatively new to Baltimore and obviously this was a very unfortunate learning experience for us here,” Davis said.

S.H. Bell says they’ve recovered 70 percent of the stolen metals and significantly upgraded their security since the theft, including round-the-clock security staff.

It’s possible more arrests and more charges could come from this still ongoing investigation.

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