San Francisco Bay pirate ploy sends 3 to brig 

Three alleged scrap-metal pirates were busted after sailing into a sting operation at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard last weekend — but the bumbling swabbies missed the real booty sitting on a nearby pier.

Bayview Police Station officers, joined by UC San Francisco cops and federal authorities, performed an overnight stakeout at the shipyard, where it was suspected that thieves were using boats to gain access via Islais Creek to steal tools, wire, pipes and other materials that could be sold and recycled for cash, police said.

However, Islais Creek flows alongside Pier 80, where the Oracle Racing team houses million-dollar catamarans for the America’s Cup.

Michael England, 47; Alphonso Muhammad, 58; and Nalinle Ignacio, 34; all of San Francisco, were arrested on numerous felony charges.

Click the picture for mug shots of the suspects.

The sting began at 8 p.m. Saturday, but cops didn’t see any action until about 3 a.m. Sunday, when a boat with three people aboard used the creek to access the shipyard. Police said the vessel is owned by a man who had been previously arrested in connection with metal thefts.

Two men exited the boat and entered a building by busting through a window, police said. About an hour later, police said, the crooks emerged with their arms loaded with “several large pipe valves.” That’s when cops moved in.

Both suspects fled. One tried to hide in a brush pile but was quickly found. The other took off for the creek in a desperate attempt to get away, throwing his haul into the water.

He was reportedly pepper-sprayed by pursuing officers after reaching into his waistband. The man then leaped into the water and swam toward the boat, police said, but cops had boarded the vessel and were waiting with handcuffs.

The third suspect, a woman, was located inside the boat’s cabin and also arrested.

The three were booked on burglary, conspiracy and possession of stolen property charges, police said.

UCSF police were part of the case because suspects who match the description of the three arrested Sunday have been victimizing campus buildings, UCSF Assistant Chief Paul Berlin said.

“It’s the same guys who have been hitting us up at Mission Bay, using a boat, dumping the stuff when they’re seen,” Berlin said of hospital buildings that are getting stripped while they’re under construction.

Metal and other recyclable materials have been a popular target of Bay Area thieves. Copper can go for almost $4 a pound.

In December, BART police arrested a man suspected of stealing copper wire from train tracks.

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