Federal, state and local law enforcement partners across the United States executed a nationally coordinated takedown of the leaders and associates of a nationwide network of thieves, dealers and processors to their role in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metals refinery for tens of millions of dollars.
According to a press release from justice department (DOJ), arrests, searches and seizures have taken place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. A total of 21 people in five states have been arrested and charged for their role in the plot.
The 21 defendants are charged in two separate indictments that were released today in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma following extensive arrest and search operations by law enforcement. order. Along with the indictments, more than 32 search warrants were executed and law enforcement seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash and vehicles from luxury.
“Amid an increase in catalytic converter thefts across the country, the Department of Justice today conducted an operation arresting 21 defendants and executing 32 search warrants as part of a nationwide takedown of a network multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “We will continue to work alongside our state and local partners to disrupt criminal conspiracies like this that target the American people.”
Catalytic converters are a component of an automotive vehicle’s exhaust system that reduce toxic gases and pollutants from a vehicle’s internal combustion engine to safe emissions. Catalytic converters use precious metals at their center or “core” and are regularly the targets of theft due to the high value of these metals, particularly the precious metals palladium, platinum and rhodium. The black market price for catalytic converters can exceed $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and its original condition.
A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California returned a 40-count indictment charging nine defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering and other related charges.
According to court documents, brothers Tou Sue Vang, 31, and Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, all of Sacramento, Calif., allegedly operated an unlicensed business from their Sacramento residence where they purchased catalytic converters stolen 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 worth of stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.
Accused Navin Khanna, 39; Tinu Khanna, 35; Daniel Dolan, 44; Chi Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 24, all from New Jersey, operated DG Auto at several locations in New Jersey. The DOJ claims to have knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a stripping 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.
“With California’s higher emission standards, our community has become a hotbed for catalytic converter theft,” says U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “Last year, approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reported stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide. I am proud to report that we have charged nine people who are at the heart of catalytic flight in our community and nationally.
A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma returned a 40-count indictment charging 13 defendants with conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering and other related charges.
According to court documents, the defendants together purchased stolen catalytic converters from thieves on the street, then resold them and shipped them to DG Auto in New Jersey for processing. Defendant Tyler James Curtis received over $13 million in wired funds from DG Auto for shipping catalytic converters and received over $500,000 from Capital Cores for catalytic converters. Defendant Adam G. Sharkey received over $45 million in wire transfers from DG Auto. And defendant Martynas Macerauskas received more than $6 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters.
The DOJ claims that in all of these incidents, most of the catalytic converters sold to DG Auto were stolen, and DG Auto knew or should have known when it 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; Martynas Macerauskas, 28, of Leila Lake, Texas; Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21, of Leila Lake; 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.
“In Tulsa alone, more than 2,000 catalytic converters have been stolen in the past year,” says U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma. “Organized criminal activity, including the large-scale theft of catalytic converters, costs victims dearly and too often puts citizens and law enforcement at risk. Collective work by federal prosecutors and more than 10 different law enforcement agencies led to charges being laid in the Northern District of Oklahoma against 13 defendants operating an alleged catalytic converter theft operation.
Trial Attorney Danbee C. Kim of the Organized Crime and Gangs Section of the Criminal Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica MA Alegría for the Eastern District of California, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reagan Reininger and David Nasar for the District northern Oklahoma are pursuing business.