Pittsburgh police on Thursday arrested a man charged with the theft of 50 city-owned metal trash cans valued at more than $50,000.
City police arrested Robert H. Chauvet, 53, of Oakdale, after a two-month investigation in conjunction with Allegheny County Police.
Mr. Chauvet has at least one prior theft conviction, dated to late 2010 in Allegheny County.
Over an eight-month period starting last September, police said Mr. Chauvet sold many of the trash cans, each weighing about 225 pounds and purchased by the city for $1,000 each, to Metalico Neville Metals in Neville.
According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Chauvet used aliases when he went to the scrap metal yard, but Neville Metals employees grew suspicious, so they asked him for photo identification. He gave them his real Pennsylvania driver's license.
The police investigation lasted two months.
City public works Director Rob Kaczorowski said the stolen cans were among 240 deployed more than a decade ago through a partnership between the city and Lamar Advertising.
Lamar owns the cans and maintains them, while the city empties them.
Mr. Kaczorowski said Mr. Chauvet is a Lamar employee familiar with the program. He said the cans seem to have been stolen from bus shelters, now little-used because of Port Authority cutbacks.
Public-works crews have retrieved about 20 cans from scrap dealers and plan to pick up some more.
"The police did an excellent job," Mr. Kaczorowski said, noting that his department reported the thefts a couple of months ago and assisted in the investigation.
The partnership with Lamar is set to expire soon, he said, and the authority will take ownership of all the cans.
Representatives at Lamar's Pittsburgh office were not available for comment.
Ryan Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org . Joe Smydo and Kaitlynn Riely contributed.