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Feds bust ring of thieves they say made millions stealing catalytic converters: NPR


The exhaust pipe of an abandoned car without its catalytic converter, lies on the ground in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Matt Rourke/AP


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Matt Rourke/AP

Feds bust ring of thieves they say made millions stealing catalytic converters: NPR

The exhaust pipe of an abandoned car without its catalytic converter, lies on the ground in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Matt Rourke/AP

The Justice Department has arrested 21 people suspected of being part of a ring of thieves that has made millions of dollars from stolen catalytic converters, the auto parts that have increasingly become targets across the country.

A team of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies seized hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, such as homes, bank accounts and cash, cars and jewels of the defendants. They are charged with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, etc.

The federal government is seeking a total of $545 million in forfeitures.

“This nationwide network of criminals is hurting victims across the country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process – off the backs of thousands of innocent car owners.”

The defendants were charged in two different indictments in separate courts – the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Fifteen of the defendants are accused of buying catalytic converters from local thieves and shipping them to DG Auto in New Jersey.

Six people from DG Auto are accused of buying the stolen parts and “de-conserving” them to extract the powdered metals and resell them to a metal refinery. They reportedly won about $545 million through the process, the Justice Department said.

Across the country, the coin has been a hot commodity for thieves because it contains rare metals, such as platinum rhodium and palladium, and can be valued at hundreds of dollars in scrap yards.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has tracked the increase in catalytic converter thefts and says the number of thefts has increased tenfold since 2018, with more than 14,000 reported thefts in 2020.

Metal prices have risen since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected their production in places like Russia and South Africa.


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