The United States Department of Justice has stopped a massive network of multi-state catalytic converter thefts. The agency has charged 21 people in five states and sought the forfeiture of more than $545 million in assets.
The federal grand jury for the Eastern District of California has a 40-count indictment against nine people for crimes including conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to launder money. A Sacramento group allegedly purchased stolen catalytic converters from local thieves. These folks then shipped them to the DG Auto company in New Jersey and made over $38 million through the program.
The DOJ indictment includes people from DG Auto. The company allegedly knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and dismantled them to extract the precious metal powders inside. He then sold this material to a refinery and earned over $545 million in the process.
“Last year, approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reported stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide. I am proud to report that we have charged nine individuals who are at the heart of the theft of catalysts in our community and nationwide,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Phillip A. Talbert.
Separately, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma filed a 40-count indictment against 13 people for conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to launder money. . Their alleged crime was similar to the group in California buying stolen catalytic converters and selling them to DG Auto.
One person in the indictment is said to have earned over $13 million. Another would have received more than $45 million and a third would have received $6 million.
Part of the catalytic converters contain precious precious metals like palladium, platinum and rhodium. For example, palladium is trading at $1,901 per ounce and platinum at $984 at the time of this writing. Rhodium costs $13,990 per ounce.
According to the DOJ, thieves can receive more than $1,000 each for a stolen catalytic converter. Moreover, a person can take them in less than a minute. The result is a quick and lucrative crime. Catalytic converters typically do not have a vehicle’s VIN number or other identifying information, making stolen examples difficult to track.
According to previous reports (and the source of the main image above), thieves preferred certain models over others. Heavy-duty pickup trucks like the Ford Super Duty trucks were popular because their catalytic converters were larger, thus containing more material. The Toyota Prius was also a target because its catalytic converters were often in better shape thanks to the hybrid powertrain.