A joint CBC News-Vancouver Sun hidden-camera sting has discovered B.C. metal dealers are still buying illegal scrap, ahead of a government crackdown of the industry next month.

The joint investigative team went undercover to several metal yards in the Lower Mainland and attempted to sell scrap designed to look suspicious, but in reality supplied by Telus.

Telus is one of the biggest victims of the trade in "hot metal" and frequently sees everything from copper phone wires to aluminium phone booths stolen for illegal sale.

CAC Enterprises Group in Maple Ridge was caught buying a clearly marked Telus phone booth for $15, in violation of scrap metal bylaws requiring delivery in a company vehicle by a seller with company identification and authorization.

Undercover Vancouver Sun reporter Mike Hager was not even asked for a basic driver's licence or government-issued photo ID — which are required from all sellers in case the scrap turns out to be stolen.

When shown a tape of the incident, CAC manager Xiao Yang said he was shocked by what he saw and admitted his yard should never have bought the booth.

"I'm certainly very surprised then disappointed, and of course, very embarrassed," he said. "There's no excuse. It's something that we missed and we should change."

CAC Enterprises Group has since brought staff up-to-speed on the rules and ordered a new sign, warning potential scrap sellers that tough new rules are now in place.

Burned wire

In another incident, Ever Recycling in Surrey was caught paying $148 for burned wire — cables with all casing and identifying marks burned off — despite the fact that municipal scrap metal bylaws specifically prohibit this.

When confronted about the purchase, Ever's manager said that Telus had told him he could buy anything worth less than $500. A Telus inspector disputed this claim.

Contacted later for clarification, Ever Recycling continue to insist they have done nothing wrong.

Under new regulations that will come into effect July 23, the province's 60 to 70 scrap metal dealers will be forced to file daily reports to police, who will be able to compare the information with reports of metal theft.

Sellers with more than $50 in scrap will be paid by cheque, not cash, to reduce walk-in traffic by individuals who want quick cash.

Sellers will also be required to give their personal identity information to the dealers and police will be able to obtain that information with a court order if they believe the metal was illegally obtained.

Seven provincial inspectors will enforce the new legislation.

Who bought what?

CAC Enterprises Group, Maple Ridge

Paid $15 for a Telus phone booth; accepted an expired student pass. Paid $6 for a table saw and stand; accepted poorly faked identification.

Ever Recycling, Surrey

Paid $148 for 66 pounds of burned Telus wire.  

Parsons Scrap Metal, Surrey

Wouldn't buy wire, stating it was against the bylaw. Paid $4 for two pieces of legitimate scrap metal, but no government-issued ID requested.

 

Woori Metal, Port Coquitlam

Paid $212 for burned Telus wire. When confronted, the staff, whose native language is not English, claimed ignorance of the law, returned our wire, and we gave them their money back.

 
With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin