The Toyota Tundra is the number one target of the stolen palladium trade.
UPDATE: An even larger bust has been reported in Oregon totaling $22 million in stolen catalytic converters.
On the list of crimes normal citizens would like to be get rid of, catalytic converter theft is very high. What wasn't really on the radar of civilians or police a few short years ago is now a major hot-button issue that dealers can't keep up with and is now even worse after this latest bust by Houston law enforcement. A total of 477 stolen catalytic converters and over 2,800 O2 sensors were cut off cars and trucks parked within a hundred-mile radius of Houston, TX.
According to KHOU 11, Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Houston Police Department, as well as US Customs and Homeland Security formed a joint task force that recovered the cats stashed in seven homes, in addition to a stolen Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and 29 firearms.
Charged in the felony thefts are, Jose Martinez, Armando Martinez, Isaac Castillo, Terance Elder, 20, and Armando Martinez Sr. all from Houston, TX. Martinez Sr. has since posted a $50,000 bond and is out of jail awaiting a court hearing. Another man, Jose Sanchez was arrested but has since been released with no bail or charges laid.
"Martinez is a mid-level or mid-tier buyer that was part of a sophisticated organized criminal entity engaged in cutting, purchasing, and selling the stolen [catalytic] converters," KHOU 11 reported. "They were advertising on social media. They would post price lists with different models the gang was interested in purchasing."
The social media 'want to buy' posts spread like a Texas wildfire and dozens of cars would swing by Martinez Sr.'s home to drop off stolen cats for quick cash. The "cutters' would pull up to sell between two and ten stolen cats and leave with their black-market valuation in cash. From there, Martinez Sr. was exporting out of state selling either as usable catalytic converter replacements or for the valuable palladium found inside, which is trading at $2148 / ounce as of today. But the replacement costs are even higher at an estimated $11.6 million as victims found out real quick.
"It's very costly if you get your catalytic converter stolen," Harris County Sergeant, Jeff Thomas said. "The main target is the Toyota Tundra. You are looking at $1,800 to $3,000 to get them replaced. It's part of a big organized crime, We do have some cutters, maybe some of the top people of the organization today." he added.