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Justice Department Busts Theft Ring That Allegedly Made Millions off of Stolen Car Parts

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The Justice Department busted a theft ring that allegedly profited off of stolen catalytic converters.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the department said, “Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners from across the United States executed a nationwide, coordinated takedown today of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.”

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

Twenty-one individuals in five states were arrested and/or charged for their roles in the crimes.

“Amidst a rise in catalytic converter thefts across the country, the Justice Department has today carried out an operation arresting 21 defendants and executing 32 search warrants in a nation-wide takedown of a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft network,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said.

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He added, “We will continue to work alongside our state and local partners to disrupt criminal conspiracies like this one that target the American people.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray explained the “national network of criminals hurt victims across the country.”

According to Wray, they “made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process—on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners. Today’s charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”

The department explained the catalytic converters are a “component of an automotive vehicle’s exhaust device that reduce the toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle’s internal combustion engine into safe emissions.”

They are targeted for theft because they have precious metals in their “core.”

The department pointed out the black-market price for the parts can reach more than $1,000.

“Additionally, catalytic converters often lack unique serial numbers, VIN information, or other distinctive identification features, making them difficult to trace to their lawful owner. Thus, the theft of catalytic converters has become increasingly popular because of their value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings,” the statement explains.

NPR reported the National Insurance Crime Bureau has been following the spike in catalytic converter thefts.

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The bureau reported there has been roughly a ten-fold increase in thefts since 2018.

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