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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Wray: "This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country"

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Law enforcement personnel at all levels of government executed a national, coordinated takedown of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving the theft and resale of catalytic converters for tens of millions of dollars.

Arrests, searches, and seizures in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia resulted in 21 individuals in five states being arrested and/or charged for their roles in the conspiracy, according to a Nov. 2 U.S. Department of Justice news release.

“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 nationwide takedown of a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft network,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the release. “We will continue to work alongside our state and local partners to disrupt criminal conspiracies like this one that target the American people.”

The defendants are charged in two separate indictments in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma, the release reported. Law enforcement also carried out more than 32 search warrants in addition to the original indictments, seizing millions of dollars worth of assets, including homes, cars, cash, and bank accounts.

“This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the release. “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.”

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip A. Talbert cited California's higher emission standards as a reason the state has become "a hotbed for catalytic converter theft," the release reported.

“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 said in the release. "I am proud to announce that we have indicted nine people who are at the core of catalytic theft in our community and nationwide.”

“In Tulsa alone, more than 2,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the past year,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Clint Johnson said in the release. “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. The collective work conducted by federal prosecutors and more than 10 different law enforcement agencies led to the filing of charges in the Northern District of Oklahoma against 13 defendants operating an alleged catalytic converter theft operation.”

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