Federal Probe Ends Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

On Wednesday, federal investigators said that they had dismantled a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring that had generated hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States Department of Justice said in a press statement that they had detained twenty-one people they believed were connected to the crime ring.

Because emissions-control equipment like catalytic converters often include rich metals like rhodium and platinum—sometimes more valuable per ounce than gold—theft of such parts has increased in recent years, leading to a market collapse. The government agency warned that catalytic converters can fetch more than $1,000 on the underground market.

Federal Probe Ends Catalytic Converter Theft Ring
Federal Probe Ends Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

The United States Department of Justice announced in a press release that federal officials collaborated with state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct searches and arrests in nine states, including California, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and New York. With over 32 executed warrants, investigators were able to seize “millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash, and luxury automobiles,” as reported by the agency.

On Wednesday, two separate indictments were filed in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma, charging a total of 21 people from five different jurisdictions. The government stated that charges included conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The charges against the six defendants allege that they ran an enterprise out of DG Auto in New Jersey, purchasing stolen catalytic converters from thieves all around the country and then melting them down to sell the precious metals to refineries. According to the report, the enterprise generated around $545 million.

The agency accuses the remaining 15 defendants of purchasing stolen catalytic converters and then transporting and selling them to DG Auto in New Jersey. Defendants 3–5 are accused of operating an unlawful business out of a garage in Sacramento, purchasing converters from local criminals and reselling them to DG Auto. Over $38 million, according to the department’s estimates, was generated from selling the stolen components. According to the complaint, the remaining 12 defendants ran parallel businesses in other states, purchasing and selling stolen components to DG Auto.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip A. Talbert remarked, “With California’s tougher pollution rules, our neighborhood has become a hot bed for catalytic converter theft.” California is responsible for 37% of all recorded thefts of catalytic converters in the United States, with 1,600 converters disappearing each month last year. I am pleased to say that nine individuals who have been at the center of a major theft scheme in our area and around the country have been indicted.

In an effort to reduce the theft of catalytic converters, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two measures last month. The first would make it illegal to purchase a used catalytic converter from anybody other than the approved vendors. The second will necessitate comprehensive tracking of converter sales by recyclers.

 

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