DOJ: Two Nevadans connected to nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, netting millions

DOJ: Two Nevadans connected to nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, netting millions
DOJ: Two Nevadans connected to nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, netting millions(FOX5)
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:01 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Law enforcement officers from across the U.S. executed a coordinated takedown of people connected to a national network of catalytic converter thieves, according to the Department of Justice.

“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,” according to a DOJ news release.

U.S. Attorney’s Office officials in Nevada confirmed to FOX5 there are two suspects in Nevada. According to court documents, Louis Daniel Rodriguez and Josue Abraham Reynoso Ochoa are accused of being involved. Documents show through undercover and other methods, both men “purchase stolen catalytic converters from criminals who have cut them from vehicles.” Documents also indicate Rodriguez and Reynoso purchased catalytic converters from an undercover FBI employee, and some meetings were “audio and video recorded.”

Documents also indicate records from Facebook show a company, listed as Company A in the documents, sells those converters to a company across state lines. Officials said there was a freight shipping receipt documenting a shipment from Company A in Nevada to Company B in New Jersey.

“Bank records obtained by the FBI show that the vast majority of Company A’s revenue comes from Company B. Between March 2021 and July 2022, Company A received more than $4 million in wire transfers from Company B,” read court documents.

According to court documents, some men operated an unlicensed business from their personal residence in Sacramento where they bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves and shipped them to an auto parts store in New Jersey for processing. The DOJ says the auto store in New Jersey “sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $545 million.”

The DOJ says one catalytic converter can be worth $1,000 on the black market, depending on the make of the car and what state it was stolen in. Thieves are after the precious metals inside converters, which are used to clean a car’s exhaust. Some of those metals are worth more than gold when melted down. That is why there’s been a rash of thefts over the last several years in Nevada and across the U.S.

“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,” Wray added.

The DOJ says the U.S. is seeking forfeiture of over $545 million dollars in connection with the case. In addition to indictments, the DOJ says over 32 search warrants were executed, and law enforcement already seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, banks accounts, cash and luxury vehicles.