21 Arrested in Nationwide Catalytic Converter Theft Ring
Twenty-one people have been arrested across five states in a nationwide, coordinated takedown of members of a national catalytic converter theft ring, the Justice Department reported in November. The criminal network sold catalytic converters “to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.” Across the country, law enforcement executed over 32 search warrants, and millions of dollars in assets have been seized in the operation.
“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. Today's charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”
The United States is seeking forfeiture of over $545 million in connection with the case.
Arrests in Catalytic Converter Theft Ring Include Two Texans
Arrests, searches, and seizures took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. In total, 21 individuals in five states have been arrested and/or charged for their roles in the conspiracy. Included in the arrests were Martynas Macerauskas, 28, and Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21, of Leila Lake, Texas.
The 21 defendants are charged in two separate indictments that were unsealed today in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma following extensive law enforcement arrest and search operations. In addition to the indictments, over 32 search warrants were executed, and law enforcement seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash, and luxury vehicles.
Proposed Legislation on Catalytic Converter Theft
Texas State Senators Carol Alvarado and John Whitmire have introduced legislation, known as the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act, relating to the prosecution of and punishment for theft of a catalytic converter. TIADA is keeping track of this bill and other legislative measures aimed at curbing the problem of catalytic converter theft in Texas. We will keep you posted as more information becomes available.At the federal level, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden have also recently introduced legislation to combat the rise in catalytic converter theft. The Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act would ensure that law enforcement can more effectively address these thefts by marking each converter with a traceable identification number and establishing converter thefts as a criminal offense.
About Catalytic Converters and Catalytic Converter Theft
According to the Justice Department, 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. 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.
According to a report by State Farm Insurance, Texas ranks second in the nation in catalytic converter thefts. TIADA reiterates, following our report in June, that it will continue to follow the Texas Legislature's efforts to tackle this issue facing independent dealers and will update you as things progress. If you are interested in helping our legislative efforts, you can donate to INDEPAC so we can continue to support those members of the legislature who support our industry.