Police Bust Catalytic Converter Thieves They Say Caused $11.6M in Damages
Catalytic converters were stolen up to 100 miles outside of Houston
Police in Houston raided seven homes and arrested six people last week they say stole hundreds of catalytic converters that could sell for more than $1 million and attributed the damages done by the small syndicate to $11.6 million.
More than 470 catalytic converters were recovered by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Houston Police Department, and the Office of Homeland Security.
Police say that some arrested advertised they'd buy used catalytic converters on social media. Specifically, the posts included lists of vehicles and the prices paid per unit. People not directly affiliated with the group would deliver anywhere between two and 10 converters at a time to the homes of the individuals who were formally charged with engaging in organized crime.
This means that those arrested were not just involved in stealing the devices but also purchasing them and selling the cut cats to out-of-state buyers. Police linked the group's stolen parts to thefts committed in cities nearly 100 miles from Houston.
Police and lawmakers in the Houston area have cracked down on catalytic converter thefts following the death of a sheriff's deputy while confronting suspects attempting to steal the catalytic converter from his vehicle. The possession of "cut" catalytic converters was criminalized within city limits in May in an attempt to curb the crime, though the ongoing investigation revealed traveling thieves would transport hundreds of harvested emissions devices gathered from across the state.
A total of 477 catalytic converters and 2,800 oxygen sensors were recovered in seven homes, according to KHOU. Police say that they also recovered a stolen Dodge Hellcat (the particular model unclear), 29 firearms, and one Glock auto sear capable of converting the weapon into a machine gun. Local news reports that a previous investigation into the group resulted in the seizure of $484,000 in cash, narcotics, and an additional firearm.
This wasn't the first time two suspects have been in the news for stealing cats. Two of the suspects were arrested earlier this year in Florida and charged with allegedly stealing more than 30 catalytic converters. Additionally, alleged photos of some suspects have been making the rounds on Reddit and Facebook, including a photo of cash spelling out "A saw changed my life." Law enforcement confirmed to The Drive that they were aware of the photos but did not confirm or deny their legitimacy.
According to Houston police, catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed from 375 reports in 2019 to 7,800 reported thefts in 2021. Today, Houston police say that they receive more than 30 reports of stolen catalytic converters daily.