NEW JERSEY - Federal authorities carried out raids in New York and New Jersey as part of a nationwide bust of a catalytic converter theft ring.
The Justice Department says that the takedown targeted leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors of stolen catalytic converters worth tens of millions of dollars.
Arrests, searches, and seizures took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. More than 32 search warrants were executed, and law enforcement seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash, and luxury vehicles.
21 people in five states have been arrested and/or charged in two separate indictments.
"This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. "They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process—on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners."
What do catalytic converters do in cars?
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.
Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center, or "core", and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals, especially the precious metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years.
The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute.
Catalytic converters often lack unique serial numbers, VIN information, or other distinctive identification features, making them difficult to trace.
The theft of catalytic converters has become increasingly popular because of their value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings.
A federal grand jury in California returned a 40‑count indictment charging nine defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other charges.
According to court documents, brothers Tou Sue Vang, 31, and Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, all of Sacramento, allegedly operated an unlicensed business from their Sacramento home where they bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves and shipped them to DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for processing. The Vang family allegedly sold over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.
Navin Khanna, aka Lovin Khanna, 39; Tinu Khanna, aka Gagan Khanna, 35; Daniel Dolan, 44; Chi Mo, aka David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 24, all of New Jersey, operated DG Auto in multiple locations in New Jersey, according to a Justice Department press release. They allegedly knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a "de-canning" process, extracted the precious metal powders from the catalytic core. DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $545 million, authorities claim.
A federal grand jury in Oklahoma returned a 40‑count indictment charging 13 defendants with conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other charges.
According to court documents, the defendants bought stolen catalytic converters from thieves on the street, then re-sold and shipped them to DG Auto in New Jersey for processing.
Tyler James Curtis allegedly received more than $13 million in wired funds from DG Auto for the shipment of catalytic converters and received over $500,000 from Capital Cores for catalytic converters.
Adam G. Sharkey allegedly received more than $45 million in wired funds from DG Auto.
And authorities claim that Martynas Macerauskas received more than $6 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters.
Prosecutors claim that 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.
The 13 defendants are Navin Khanna, 39, of Holmdel, New Jersey; Adam Sharkey, 26, of West Islip, New York; Robert Gary Sharkey, 57, of Babylon, New York; Tyler James Curtis, 26, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Benjamin Robert Mansour, 24, of Bixby, Oklahoma; Reiss Nicole Biby, 24, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Martynas Macerauskas, 28, of Leila Lake, Texas; Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21, of Leila Lake, Texas; Parker Star Weavel, 25, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Shane Allen Minnick, 26, of Haskell, Oklahoma; Ryan David LaRue 29, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Brian Pate Thomas, 25, of Choteau, Oklahoma; and Michael Anthony Rhoden, 26, of Keifer, Oklahoma.