21 arrested in nationwide catalytic converter theft ring bust; millions of dollars seized

Twenty-one people in five states have been arrested for being part of a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, the Justice Department reported Wednesday.

The Justice Department said the arrests took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada and North Carolina. Prosecutors said some of the suspects have already been indicted for their role in the conspiracy.

Ten different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation, executing 32 search warrants. Law enforcement officers seized property worth millions of dollars from the suspects, including homes, bank accounts, cash and luxury vehicles.

The DOJ said brothers Tou Soo Wang and Andrew Wang, along with Monica Moua, allegedly sold more than $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto in New Jersey. Prosecutors allege that he operated an unlicensed business out of his home in Sacramento, California, where he purchased stolen catalytic converters from local thieves.

Prosecutors claim that DG Auto, a company that buys catalytic converters, knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters, extracted the precious metal powder and sold them to a metal refinery for more than $545 million.

catalytic converters
FILE – An undated photo of catalytic converters.

CBS News

Prosecutors said other defendants in the case include Tyler James Curtis, who received more than $13 million in wired funds from DG Auto for shipments of catalytic converters, as well as more than $500,000 from another company.

The DOJ said defendant Adam G. Sharkey received more than $45 million in Wired funds from DG Auto, while defendant Martinas McCroskas received more than $6 million in payments from DG Auto.

A federal grand jury in California returned a 40-count indictment, charging nine defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.

“With California’s high emissions standards, our community has become a hot bed for catalytic converter theft,” US Attorney Philip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California said in a statement.

Talbert said about 1,600 catalytic converters were stolen each month in California last year. He said California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in Oklahoma returned a 40-count indictment against 13 defendants in the case.

US Attorney Clint Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma said in a statement that 2,000 catalytic converters were stolen last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Organized criminal activity, including the large-scale theft of catalytic converters, is costly to victims and often puts citizens and law enforcement at risk,” Johnson said.

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise in the US, the DOJ said in its press release. The car part reduces toxic gas and pollutants from the vehicle’s internal combustion engine into safe emissions. They are usually stolen because they contain precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium.

Some of these metals are worth more than gold, and their value is increasing.

The DOJ said catalytic converters can cost more than $1,000 on the black market. They are also easy to steal – a thief can pick them up from the car in less than a minute.

They often do not have serial numbers, so they are difficult to locate once removed from the car.

“Thus, theft of catalytic converters has become increasingly popular due to their value, relative ease of theft, and lack of identification marks,” the DOJ said.

On Friday, in an unrelated case, a suspect in Chicago was arrested for allegedly attempting to steal a catalytic converter, CBS Chicago. Report.

The owner of a muffler shop in Denver said his shop has manufactured and installed more than 1,000 shields welded to cars to protect catalytic converters, CBS Colorado reported last week.

Many autobody shops offer similar protection. Farmers Insurance recommends looking at these anti-Left devices. The company also recommends engraving your license plate number on the catalytic converter so it can be traced if found. It also suggests parking in a well-lit area and making sure your car alarm is on.

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