Criminals made millions.
With the global economy heading for yet another recession, people are becoming desperate, and desperate people resort to some wild behavior. Take the recent increase in catalytic converter thefts, for instance. Catalytic converters are being stolen by the thousands across America for the rare minerals they contain. What started as localized thefts have grown into nationwide cartels that target specific areas and cause mass property damage. CarBuzz has reported on the rise of catalytic converter thefts across the nation, as well as successful busts, but this latest report by The United States Department of Justice has us seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: a nationwide crime ring has just been taken down.
Catalytic converters form part of modern cars' exhaust systems and use precious metals such as palladium, platinum, and rhodium to scrub toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle's internal combustion engine. The value of these converters has been increasing in recent years and can reach over $1,000 each on the black market, making them an easy target for criminals. Their lack of proper identification (serial or VIN numbers) makes them difficult to trace, giving criminals yet more incentive. Federal authorities have been working with state police departments to take down large crime syndicates involved in the theft and trade of catalytic converse and have recently had some significant wins.
The first large takedown took place in the Eastern District of California. A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California dumped a 40-count indictment against nine defendants relating to the crime of conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters. According to case documents, a family based in Sacramento, California, operated an unlicensed business from their personal residence from where they purchased stolen converters and shipped them to DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for processing. The family sold stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto that amounted to over $38 million.
"With California's higher emission standards, our community has become a hotbed for catalytic converter theft," said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. "Last year, approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reportedly stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide. I am proud to announce that we have indicted nine people who are at the core of catalytic theft in our community and nationwide."
In the Northern District of Oklahoma, another big case was cracked. A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma returned a 40-count indictment charging 13 defendants with conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters. They were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and other related charges. This case was also tied to DG Auto in New Jersey, and one defendant, Adam G. Sharkey, received over $45 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters.
"Just like the precious metal inside every catalytic converter, there's a money trail at the core of every criminal scheme," said Chief Jim Lee of the IRS Criminal Investigation. "Our IRS-CI special agents and partners are incredibly well-versed in unraveling financial trails, and this case is not unique. There are real victims here - friends, neighbors, and businesses - and our hope is that today's arrests will deter similar criminal activity."
Want to avoid your car being tampered with? We've got a simple solution: buy a fully electric Tesla Model 3, or if you're feeling frisky, why not a Rimac Nevera? The crooks will never see you coming.