Department of Justice Turns Off Big Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

The United States Department of Justice stops a massive multi-country network of catalytic converter theft. The agency indicted 21 people in five states and sought the confiscation of more than $545 million in assets.

A federal jury in the Eastern District of California has 40 charges against nine people for crimes such as conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A group in Sacramento allegedly bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves. These people then sent it to the company DG Auto in New Jersey and made more than $38 million from the scheme.

The DOJ indictment includes those from DG Auto. The company is alleged to have deliberately purchased the stolen catalytic converter and separated it to extract the precious metal powder inside. It then sold this material to refineries and made more than $545 million in the process.

“Last year approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reported stolen in California each month, and California accounted for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide. I am proud to announce that we have indicted nine people who are at the heart of catalytic theft in our community and nationally, said US Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip A. Talbert.

Separately, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma filed 40 charges against 13 people for conspiracy to receive a stolen catalytic converter and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Their alleged crimes are similar to those in California by buying stolen catalytic converters and selling them to DG Auto.

One person in the indictment allegedly earned more than $13 million. Another reportedly earned more than $45 million, and a third purportedly earned $6 million.

Some of the catalytic converters contain valuable precious metals such as palladium, platinum, and rhodium. As an example, palladium is trading at $1,901 an ounceand platinum is $984 as of the date of this writing. Rhodium is $13.990 one ounce.

According to the DOJ, thieves could receive more than $1,000 each for stolen catalytic converters. Plus, one can pick it up in less than a minute. The result is a quick and lucrative crime. Catalytic converters generally do not have a vehicle VIN number or other identifying information, making stolen samples difficult to trace.

According to previous reports (and the main image source above), thieves prefer certain models over others. Heavy-duty pickups like the Ford Super Duty trucks are popular because their catalytic converters are larger, so they contain more material. The Toyota Prius is also a target because its catalytic converter is often in better condition due to the hybrid powertrain.

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