Crime & Courts

Wichita man bought $384,000 of copper pipe with employer’s money and sold it as scrap

A Kansas man has been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution after he admitted to stealing from his employer in a copper theft scheme.

Matthew P. Belshe, 42, of Wichita, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft, District Attorney Marc Bennett said in a news release.

He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay about $384,000 in restitution, Sedgwick County District Court records show. The money will go to Kruse Corporation, Belshe’s former employer, and Traveler’s Insurance.

As part of his probation, Belshe is forbidden from consuming alcohol or drugs. He was also ordered to complete a state program for people with gambling problems and forbidden from participating in gambling, including going to casinos, sports betting and online gambling.

A Wichita police detective had alleged that Belshe cheated his former company out of the money through a copper theft scheme over four years, according to court documents. The detective’s affidavit in support of criminal charges gives the following account:

Kruse Corp. hired private investigators in November 2017 to follow Belshe and document his activities after they suspected he had been buying copper pipe on company accounts and selling it to scrap yards, pocketing the money.

The private investigators told police they had followed Belshe in a Kruse Corp. truck to Hajoca, where he bought several sticks of copper piping. He then went to Johnson Controls, where he cut the piping enough to fold it in half. He then went home, where he moved the cut piping to his personal truck.

Belshe then drove back to Hajoca, where he repeated the process with another load of copper pipe. The investigators then watched him take the piping in his personal vehicle to Wichita Iron.

The owner of Wichita Iron later showed police the scrap metal ticket of over $700 for the piping Belshe had purchased with Kruse Corp. money. The owner also provided a spreadsheet of seven months worth of scrap metal transactions with Belshe. He had sold scrap 86 times and received over $43,000.

After police investigated Belshe’s copper pipe purchases for Kruse Corp. from April 2014 to November 2017, detectives discovered that he had bought nearly $384,000 worth of piping not required for the jobs he was working on. The amount he stole increased every year over that period.

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