First-Ever Nationwide Takedown of Catalytic Converter Theft, Worth $545 Million
KTUL-Tulsa - November 8, 2022 10:12 am
Tyler Curtis (Tulsa Police Department)
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — The first-ever, nationwide takedown of catalytic convertor theft happened last Wednesday.
The alleged ringleader of the operation appeared at the Tulsa County Courthouse Monday afternoon.
The defendant, Tyler Curtis, is charged with a 40-count indictment.
“We’re talking $545 million worth of catalytic converter theft,” Clint Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said. “We executed 32 warrants, 9 different states and we had 13 defendants who are unsealed in the northern district of Oklahoma.”
The 13 defendants in Oklahoma, including Curtis, received felony charges of conspiracy, receipt of stolen property, and money laundering.
Nine other states were involved, but a large portion of this catalytic theft operation happened in Oklahoma, accounting for 13 of the 32 charges.
The investigation began after Tulsa Police Department realized that over the course of one-year catalytic convertor theft went up 700% in Tulsa.
“2000 catalytic convertors were taken off vehicles, lots, and private vehicles in the Tulsa metro area,” Johnson said. “TPD brought that to the department of justice saying they think it’s bigger than just property theft.”
Johnson says the department of justice leveraged all expertise and manpower to crack the case. HSI, FBI, and the IRS got involved in the investigation, which led to the massive indictment against the individuals.
Tulsa Police Department Chief Wendell Franklin says this case is in fact much more than just property theft.
“In the course of this investigation, we’ve learned of homicides that were committed from this sort of theft, we’ve learned of drug activity,” Franklin said.
They found the men behind the operations were shipping the convertors to an auto shop in New Jersey.
Johnson says three of the ringleaders received over $60 million in wire transfers from the stolen catalytic converters.
“There are heavy metals inside of them,” Johnson said. “Platinum, palladium, rhodium. These things actually have a flat market value of $1000 an ounce. They are more than gold.”
In this case, $545 million.
The investigation is ongoing in the other 9 states. However, here in the district of northern Oklahoma, the individuals have all had their initial appearances, going through the court process and they plan to lead it to trial.