Stolen device with radioactive material inside found at pawn shop in Bridgeport

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

BRIDGEPORT -- A device that contains radioactive material was stolen, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced Tuesday, but it was found later in the day.

The device, a "portable moisture-density gauge," was stolen from the HAKS Material Testing Group in Bridgeport. They reported the device, which is used to measure soil density, stolen to the NRC early Tuesday, after someone took it from a technician's vehicle.

It was found at East Coast Pawn, located at 76 Glenwood Avenue in Bridgeport, and Carlos Hernandez, of Bridgeport, was taken into custody as he was trying to leave the shop.

The device was originally stolen after someone broke into the technician's trunk and cut chains that secured the gauge in place, the NRC said in a statement.

The vehicle was parked at the technician's home on Douglas Street in Bridgeport. Police said it was broken into sometime between 9 p.m. Monday night and 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The driver's debit card was also taken during the robbery, according to Bridgeport police. It was used at 4:56 a.m. Tuesday at the Redbox located in the Walgreens parking lot at 1000 Park Ave, Bridgeport. Police released surveillance video from the Walgreens.

The gauge is used to make measurements by projected the radiation from two radioactive sources in the group and then displays the radiation on a dial. The device contains small amounts of two chemicals: cesium-137 and americium-241.

As long as the device is held in the proper position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public, the NRC said.  But, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device could subject the person to radiation exposure.

"The reason that we're so concerned is that if this piece of equipment is manipulated a certain way it could cause a danger to the public," Capt. Brian Fitzgerald, of the Bridgeport Police Department, said before the device was located.

Handling of the material sources outside their container would carry a risk of potentially dangerous radiation exposure.

The device is worth $7,000.

Police and the DEEP are also investigating.