Catalytic converter theft continues to be a major source of pain for vehicle owners who suffered hefty losses once targeted. But there’s some consolation, as the US Justice Department just nabbed a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, with a forfeiture of over $545 million being caught.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers helped carry out the arrests, searches, and seizures, which were executed in California, New Jersey, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia.
The Department of Justice has collectively confiscated assets worth millions of dollars during the takedown, including properties, bank accounts, and luxury vehicles. Twenty-one individuals in five states have found themselves in cuffs or charged for their crimes. “Criminals made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process — on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Read: Over $1 Million Worth Of Catalytic Converters Seized In Massive Houston Bust
The valuable metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium found in catalytic converters aid in stopping harmful pollutants from leaving the vehicles’ tailpipes. Catalytic converters can be stolen in under a minute, and the price of these metals is skyrocketing — more so than the price of gold. By the same token, they have no unique identifying or VIN information, making it impossible to track them. For these reasons, they’re a tempting target for someone wanting to make a quick (and very illegal) buck.
The official website of the US Department of Justice revealed the names of the individuals accused, as well as other info. According to court papers, stolen catalytic converters would be sold illegally and dispatched to the accused DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for a “de-canning” process. De-canning is the term given to extracting high-value metal powders from the component. An unnamed metal refinery then purchased the illegally obtained metal from DG Auto for more than $545 million. DG Auto reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars for shipments while being aware that they were paying for stolen items.