A catalytic converter is a component of the exhaust system in automobiles and is designed to neutralize hazardous chemicals. In recent years, theft of catalytic converters has been common, with thieves removing them from parked cars and selling them to shops that want them for the precious metals they contain, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.
The prices of these metals have risen steadily in recent years, and some reports say that thieves can get as much as $1,000 for a catalytic converter that they can remove with a power tool and about one minute’s worth of work. Catalytic converters often lack serial numbers or any identifying markers, making it hard for police to trace stolen items, which in turn makes it more difficult for prosecutors to press charges against suspected catalytic converter thieves.
The effect of all these factors has been something of an epidemic of catalytic converter theft across the country.
This epidemic has made car owners angry, and they have put pressure on lawmakers and law enforcement to take action.
Alleged nationwide operation
The Department of Justice recently announced a large-scale operation to take down a nationwide conspiracy devoted to catalytic converter theft. According to the Justice Department, law enforcement officers from 10 agencies arrested 21 people in nine states. Two of the arrested people are from Texas.
The Justice Department claims the arrested people were ringleaders, dealers, thieves and possessors involved in stealing and distributing catalytic converters.
Caught up in a large-scale crackdown
In any large-scale bust, law enforcement officers cast a wide net. They may tell the news media that all the people arrested were criminal kingpins, but later reports can indicate that at least some of them were actually very low on the totem pole of the conspiracy. Some may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyone accused of a crime has the right to a defense. In a high-profile case involving many defendants, it’s especially important for defendants to have experienced criminal defense help.