Waukesha city workers accused of stealing close to $40K in scrap metal

WAUKESHA (WITI) -- Waukesha city workers are accused of stealing scrap metal, recycling it and pocketing the cash. The three former city employees have been charged with the thefts that may have been happening for decades.

Three Waukesha Department of Public Works employees are accused of stealing close to $40,000 in scrap metal between 2009 and 2013.

"What we discovered was, they were selling scrap material from our DPW yard from various projects. This is a public agency and we expect more from our public employees," Waukesha City Administrator Ed Henschel said.

A criminal complaint claims Daniel Llanas, Steven Olson and Dan Owens had been scrapping things like spools of wire, street signs and utility poles.

The men told deputies it was "a 30-year practice" -- something they thought was wrong, "but it was an accepted part of the job."

The complaint says the men took the scrap to Waukesha Recycling.

"They were regulars. We knew who they were," Phil Rehberg with Waukesha Recycling said.

In August, Rehberg said he was surprised when he was questioned by deputies about the men.

"Normally, we see shady characters from time to time. They usually stand out, but these guys sure seemed legit," Rehberg said.

The men have been charged with misdemeanor theft and have either retired or resigned from their jobs.

"Moving forward, we think we put better controls in place. There`s no longer any exchange of money when we take scrap in. It will make every employee more aware of their own personal responsibility and their own personal ethics," Henschel said.