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The United States Department of Justice stopped a massive, multi-state catalytic converter theft ring. The agency indicted 21 people across five states and sought the forfeiture of over $545 million in assets.

The federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California has a 40-count indictment against nine people for crimes like conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A group in Sacramento was allegedly buying stolen catalytic converters from local thieves. These folks then shipped them to the company DG Auto in New Jersey and made over $38 million from the scheme.

The DOJ indictment includes people from DG Auto. The company allegedly knowingly bought stolen catalytic converters and took them apart to extract the precious metal powders inside. It then sold this material to a refinery and made over $545 million in the process.

"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. I am proud to announce that we have indicted nine people who are at the core of catalytic theft in our community and nationwide," said US Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip A. Talbert.

Separately, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma brought a 40-count indictment against 13 people for conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Their alleged crime was similar to the group in California by buying stolen catalytic converters and selling them to DG Auto.

One person in the indictment allegedly made over $13 million. Another reportedly received over $45 million, and a third purportedly got $6 million.

A portion of catalytic converters contains valuable precious metals like palladium, platinum, and rhodium. For example, palladium trades at $1,901 an ounce, and platinum is $984 as of this writing. Rhodium is $13,990 an ounce.

According to the DOJ, thieves can receive over $1,000 each for a stolen catalytic converter. Plus, a person can take them in less than a minute. The result is a quick, lucrative crime. Catalytic converters generally don't have a vehicle's VIN number or other identifying information, making stolen examples hard to track.

According to previous reports (and the source of the lead image above), thieves preferred certain models over others. Heavy-duty pickups like the Ford Super Duty trucks were popular because their catalytic converters were larger, therefore containing more material. The Toyota Prius was also a target because its catalytic converters were often in better condition due to the hybrid powertrain.

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