Officials claimed that on Wednesday, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from Minnesota and eight other states joined forces to shut down a massive national catalytic converter theft network that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, arrests, searches, and seizures took place in Minnesota, California, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wyoming.
No one from Minnesota was among the 21 persons in five states who were charged by two federal indictments that were brought in California and Oklahoma for their alleged participation in the criminal organization. “Leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, traffickers, and processors,” is how federal officials have described them.
According to Angie LaTour, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, “the District of Minnesota currently has no federal charges.”
According to federal officials, law enforcement agencies nationwide have seized millions of dollars’ worth of assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash, and high-end vehicles, through the execution of more than 32 search warrants, including eight in Minnesota by Homeland Security Investigations in St. Paul.
The records were submitted under cover and are still under seal, according to Ross Tweten, a spokesman for Homeland Security Investigations in St. Paul, thus the agency was unable to reveal where in Minnesota the search warrants were carried out.
Tweten claimed that 20 local law enforcement agencies, including the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and the police departments in St. Paul, Eagan, Fridley, Mendota Heights, Roseville, and Woodbury, collaborated with HSI agents throughout the investigation.
According to law enforcement officials, thefts of emissions-control parts have become increasingly common across the United States in recent years as the value of the precious metals in them, as well as the black market and the fast money they bring thieves, have grown.
Depending on the type of car and the state it comes from, the black-market price for catalytic converters might be around $1,000 per, according to officials.
Catalytic converter theft victims must pay replacement charges that can range from $1,500 to $3,000 while criminals make a fast profit.
According to Jamie Holt, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in St. Paul, “this form of organized crime is tremendously costly to victims, taxpayers, and the economy, and frequently fuels larger, more severe criminal organizations that put the community at danger.”
Despite the fact that the crime first started occurring often in Minnesota 15 years ago, thieves are currently cutting off parts from automobiles in numbers never previously seen in the state, according to law enforcement officials.
In St. Paul and Minneapolis, where the crime is more prevalent, thieves often target parked automobiles or those in driveways off of dark alleys. Catalytic converters are being stolen from corporate parking lots and parking ramps in broad daylight by thieves who are also acting more brazenly.
Catalytic converter thefts in St. Paul increased consistently from 2014 to 2019, when 345 reports were made to the police, before skyrocketing to 1,166 in 2020. 2,156 thefts have been reported in St. Paul as of October 13 this year, compared to 1,877 last year.
According to interim St. Paul police chief Jeremy Ellison, “We now know that these thefts were a part of a broader criminal business that covered the whole United States.” Thefts of these vehicle components hurt our people’ feeling of security in our community while also costing them money.
And to make matters worse, he claimed, some thefts of catalytic converters in St. Paul have featured violent crimes, such as suspects firing at property owners.
He said, “We will keep cooperating with our law enforcement allies to see that those culpable are held accountable.