Beaverton's finest has hit the organized crime ring where it hurts.
An investigation by the Beaverton Police Department has dealt a blow to a prominent crime organization thought to be responsible for catalytic converter thefts on the West Coast, reports OregonLive. The inquiry into the alleged crimes stretches as far back as 2021. In March, Tanner Lee Hellbusch, 32, was found with more than 100 stolen catalytic converters after being pulled over by police.
The stolen components in Hellbusch's possession were said to have a street value of $80,000. Furthermore, the suspect was found to be running a fencing operation under the guise of a legitimate business selling in-demand catalytic converters. Hellbusch's arrest led investigators to another suspect, Brennan Patrick Doyle, who is believed to be the brains behind the illegal operation.
Together with 12 suspected accomplices, the duo is accused of stealing 44,000 catalytic converters - valued at $22 million - since the beginning of the year. All 14 suspects will be brought up on charges of racketeering, money laundering, and aggravated theft.
In July, Doyle was arrested after a police search uncovered 3,000 catalytic converters, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry, and an unspecified high-end car in his possession. In recent months, catalytic converter thefts have spiraled out of control.
The component is fashioned out of several precious metals, including palladium and rhodium. Things have gotten worse since the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is the world's biggest importer of palladium and the country has repeatedly threatened supply in the wake of trade sanctions. As demand remains strong, this pushes up the price and, in return, increases theft.
As reported, Rhodium is valued at a staggering $14,000 an ounce. While each catalytic converter has the potential to net an opportunistic thief up to $300, law enforcement has said the few grams of metal are worth $800 once extracted at a refinery. This was no small fry operation, either. While based in Oregon, the investigation uncovered stolen components from New York, California, Texas, Nevada, and Washington.
"[The] business was turning millions of dollars worth of profit in catalytic converters. You need an organization and multiple people to do that," said Beaverton police spokesperson, Officer Matt Henderson. The criminal enterprise reportedly shipped boxes of catalytic converters across the country and internationally. Henderson notes that it's possible that hundreds of people are involved in this foiled operation.
This isn't the first time police have outwitted catalytic converter thieves. Earlier this month, Texas law enforcement arrested several suspects after uncovering 477 stolen cats, 29 firearms, and a stolen Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. Sadly, because these components don't have identity tags, they're virtually impossible to trace. Unfortunately for the victims of this crime, there's no choice but to fork out copious sums of money on replacement parts.
Sadly, there's not much one can do aside from engraving your VIN into the part and parking the vehicle in a safe area. Otherwise, you're in for a massive bill - one vehicle owner was quoted as much as $4,000 for a new catalytic converter.