Nationwide catalytic converter theft ring made lots of of tens of millions of {dollars}, feds say

The Justice Division on Wednesday introduced what officers referred to as the primary nationwide takedown of a prison enterprise taking advantage of the rampant theft of catalytic converters.

The scope of the automobile elements operation was big: Officers mentioned they are going to search $545 million in forfeitures of money, luxurious vehicles and actual property.

“Amidst an increase in catalytic converter thefts throughout the nation, the Justice Division has immediately carried out an operation arresting 21 defendants and executing 32 search warrants in a nation-wide takedown of a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft community,” Lawyer Normal Merrick Garland mentioned in a press release.

Thefts of catalytic converters — an antipollution automobile half laden with platinum, palladium and rhodium — have exploded for the reason that pandemic started, fueled by a surge within the worth of these metals. Thieves made off with 12 occasions as many catalytic converters in 2021 as they did in 2019, in accordance with the Nationwide Insurance coverage Crime Bureau.

A photo of a catalytic converter style necklace was posted on the Instagram account of one of DG's owners, Navin Khanna.
A photograph of a catalytic converter-style necklace was posted on the Instagram account of certainly one of DG Auto Components house owners, Navin Khanna. by way of Instagram

In April, a deputy sheriff in Houston was shot and killed when he tried to cease thieves from stealing his converter.

Brokers from the FBI, IRS Legal Investigations and Homeland Safety Investigations performed operations in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. Two separate indictments in California and Oklahoma accuse the defendants of conspiracy to visitors in stolen property, alleging they purchased stolen converters, stripped the dear minerals and bought them to metallic refineries.

Brokers raided a $1.7 million house in Holmdel, New Jersey, allegedly owned by one of many accused, Navin “Lovin” Khanna. On his Instagram account, he posted a photograph of a necklace with a pendant made to seem like a catalytic converter. He couldn’t be reached for remark.

A California indictment says Khanna operated DG Auto, which authorities data present has amenities in New Jersey and Wisconsin. Prosecutors say that was among the many companies allegedly buying stolen catalytic converters and reselling them. Federal brokers additionally searched a enterprise in Wrightstown, New Jersey, referred to as Blacey’s U-Choose Autoparts.

Calls to DG Auto and Blacey’s weren’t answered, and the DG agency’s voice mailbox was full.

Police etch defense against catalytic converter thefts
Technician Adelmo Rodriguez etches a catalytic converter with a license plate quantity in Huntington Seaside, Calif, in 2021. The free public service, sponsored by native police departments, is aimed to discourage thefts. Mindy Schauer / MediaNews Group by way of Getty Photographs

A federal grand jury within the Northern District of Oklahoma charged 13 defendants with conspiracy to obtain stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit cash laundering, and different associated fees. A few of these defendants are accused of promoting converters to the Khanna operation.

Regulation enforcement officers mentioned Wednesday that they’d seized quite a few luxurious vehicles as a part of the investigation.

“This nationwide community of criminals damage victims throughout the nation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray mentioned in a press release. “They made lots of of tens of millions of {dollars} within the course of — on the backs of 1000’s of harmless automobile house owners.

“Right now’s fees showcase how the FBI and its companions act collectively to cease crimes that damage all too many People.”

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