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HomeWorld NewsCatalytic converter theft ring is busted, feds say

Catalytic converter theft ring is busted, feds say

A nationwide catalytic converter theft ring that generated a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in income was taken down in an unprecedented federal investigation, the Department of Justice stated Wednesday.

The operation included arrests, searches and seizures in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

Twenty-one defendants had been charged in two indictments that had been unsealed Wednesday in U.S. district courts for the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma, federal officers stated. Investigators additionally served 32 search warrants and seized thousands and thousands of {dollars} in property together with houses, financial institution accounts, money and autos.

The operation is the primary nationwide takedown of a catalytic converter theft ring coordinated by the Justice Department, stated Lauren Horwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. lawyer’s workplace for the Eastern District of California.

In the California case, brothers Tou Sue Vang, 31, and Andrew Vang, 27, are accused of working an unlicensed enterprise with 51-year-old Monica Moua from their residence in Sacramento.

The trio purchased stolen catalytic converters from native thieves and shipped them to DG Auto Parts in New Jersey for processing, authorities stated.

“The Vang family allegedly sold over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto,” the Justice Department stated.

A 40-count indictment alleging conspiracy to move stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit cash laundering and different fees names the Vang brothers, Moua and 6 different defendants.

Navin Khanna, also referred to as Lovin Khanna, 39; Tinu Khanna, also referred to as Gagan Khanna, 35; Daniel Dolan, 44; Chi Mo, also referred to as David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 24, all of New Jersey, operated DG Auto branches in New Jersey, authorities stated.

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Beginning round October 2019 and persevering with till final month, in line with the indictment, stolen catalytic converters had been shipped from Sacramento to New Jersey, and funds had been despatched by way of wire switch from DG Auto to the Vangs’ enterprise, together with a number of in extra of $100,000.

The suspects had been being recorded by confidential informants.

Catalytic converters are part of a automobile’s exhaust system that reduces the quantity of pollution and poisonous gases discharged by the inner combustion engine. The gadgets include valuable metals similar to palladium, platinum and rhodium of their cores and are sometimes focused by thieves due to their excessive worth, lack of figuring out markings and relative ease of theft.

Federal authorities estimate that DG Auto offered valuable steel powders it processed from the catalytic converters to a steel refinery for greater than $545 million.

In the Oklahoma case, 13 defendants accused of shopping for stolen catalytic converters from road thieves and reselling them to DG Auto are charged with 40 counts, together with conspiracy to obtain stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit cash laundering and different associated fees.

The defendants embody Adam Sharkey, 26; Robert Gary Sharkey, 57; Tyler James Curtis, 26; Benjamin Robert Mansour, 24; Reiss Nicole Biby, 24; Martynas Macerauskas, 28; Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21; Parker Star Weavel, 25; Shane Allen Minnick, 26; Ryan David LaRue, 29; Brian Pate Thomas, 25; and Michael Anthony Rhoden, 26. The Sharkeys are residents of New York state; Curtis, Mansour, Biby, Weavel, Minnick, LaRue, Thomas and Rhoden stay in Oklahoma, and the Macerauskases are Texas residents.

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The indictment additionally names Navin Khana as a defendant.

From 2020 to this 12 months, authorities allege, Curtis obtained greater than $13 million over wire transfers from DG Auto and greater than $500,000 from Capital Cores Corp., a New York enterprise operated by Adam Sharkey.

Sharkey obtained greater than $45 million and Martynas Macerauskas obtained greater than $6 million, all from DG Auto, in line with the Justice Department.

“In all these incidents, most of the catalytic converters sold to DG Auto were stolen, and DG Auto knew or should have known that when they paid for them,” federal authorities stated.

California’s larger emissions requirements have made the state “a hot bed” for catalytic converter theft, stated U.S. Atty. Phillip Talbert of the Eastern District of California.

“Last year approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reportedly stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide,” Talbert stated.

U.S. Atty. Clint Johnson of the Northern District of Oklahoma stated Tulsa alone noticed greater than 2,000 such thefts within the final 12 months.

“Organized criminal activity, including the large-scale theft of catalytic converters, is costly to victims and too often places citizens and law enforcement in danger,” Johnson stated.

The operation concerned regulation enforcement personnel from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service and dozens of state and native police departments and companies.



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