Thieves have pulled off a hefty heist on Hilton Head Island, stealing thousands of pounds of stainless steel from a maintenance yard in Sea Pines.
Sea Pines security called the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office on Feb. 17 after it was discovered that about 7,000 pounds of high-grade, clear stainless steel, worth about $146,000, was missing from a storage container behind the Sea Pines Center.
Security was notified by a Club Group Ltd. employee, who said the bolts, washers, plates and turnbuckles were being stored by the Harbour Town Yacht Club Slip Association. The material was for ongoing repair of bulkhead walls at the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
The materials were stolen sometime between Jan. 20 and Feb. 16, yacht club regime manager Bob Long said.
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There was no sign of forced entry to the storage unit, but the lock that secured the door was missing, Long said.
Neither the Sheriff's Office, nor the Club Group, which manages the Sea Pines Center, knows how the material was stolen, but the caper probably required several people, Long said.
Though heavy, the three-foot-long steal bars, plates and washers would have been small enough for four or five people to load onto the back of a pickup truck in about an hour, Long said. Two people "working very hard" could also have done it, he said.
The thieves might also have made several trips over time to haul the steel away, McIntosh said.
"It would have had to be done carefully because Sea Pines does patrol the area," Long said. "I would say it was relatively brazen."
Long said not many people would have use for the specially fabricated material, and the thieves most likely would try to sell it for scrap.
McIntosh said the Sheriff's Office plans to notify local scrap dealers and monitor markets where it may be sold.
"I don't think it's something scrap dealers would see on a regular basis, and they may be suspicious, but that's one of the places we'll look," she said.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.