Authorities Smash National Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2022

Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners from across the United States executed a nationwide, coordinated takedown today of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.

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.

The 21 defendants are charged in two separate indictments that were unsealed today in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma following extensive law enforcement arrest and search operations. In addition to the indictments, over 32 search warrants were executed, and law enforcement seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash, and luxury vehicles.

“Amidst a rise in catalytic converter thefts across the country, the Justice Department has today carried out an operation arresting 21 defendants and executing 32 search warrants in a nation-wide takedown of a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft network,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “We will continue to work alongside our state and local partners to disrupt criminal conspiracies like this one that target the American people.”

“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. Today’s charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”

“With California’s higher emission standards, our community has become a hot bed for catalytic converter theft,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “Last year approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reportedly stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide. I am proud to announce that we have indicted nine people who are at the core of catalytic theft in our community and nationwide.”

“In Tulsa alone, more than 2,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the past year,” said U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma. “Organized criminal activity, including the large-scale theft of catalytic converters, is costly to victims and too often places citizens and law enforcement in danger. The collective work conducted by federal prosecutors and more than 10 different law enforcement agencies led to the filing of charges in the Northern District of Oklahoma against 13 defendants operating an alleged catalytic converter theft operation.”

“The success of this national takedown highlights the importance and necessity of dynamic law enforcement partnerships that we foster at DHS every single day," said Deputy Secretary John K. Tien of the Department of Homeland Security. “This calculated, cooperative whole-of-government approach across multiple states illustrates our commitment to protecting the homeland from those who seek to profit from sophisticated schemes. Homeland Security Investigations [HSI] will continue to focus its efforts on keeping these types of criminal elements off our streets while dismantling the groups behind these and other thefts.”

“Just like the precious metal inside every catalytic converter, there’s a money trail at the core of every criminal scheme,” said Chief Jim Lee of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “Our IRS-CI special agents and partners are incredibly well-versed at unraveling financial trails, and this case is not unique. There are real victims here – friends, neighbors, and businesses – and our hope is that today’s arrests will deter similar criminal activity.” 

Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters are a component of an automotive vehicle's exhaust device that reduce the toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle's internal combustion engine into safe emissions. Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center, or “core”, and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals, especially the precious metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years. The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute. Additionally, catalytic converters often lack unique serial numbers, VIN information, or other distinctive identification features, making them difficult to trace to their lawful owner. Thus, the theft of catalytic converters has become increasingly popular because of their value, relative ease to steal, and their lack of identifying markings.

Eastern District of California Case

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California returned a 40‑count indictment charging nine defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.

According to court documents, brothers Tou Sue Vang, 31, and Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, all of Sacramento, California, allegedly operated an unlicensed business from their personal residence in Sacramento where they bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves and shipped them to DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for processing. The Vang family allegedly sold over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.

Defendants Navin Khanna, aka Lovin Khanna, 39; Tinu Khanna, aka Gagan Khanna, 35; Daniel Dolan, 44; Chi Mo, aka David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 24, all of New Jersey, operated DG Auto in multiple locations in New Jersey. They knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a “de-canning” process, extracted the precious metal powders from the catalytic core. DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $545 million.

Northern District of Oklahoma Case

A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma returned a 40‑count indictment charging 13 defendants with conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.

According to court documents, together the defendants bought stolen catalytic converters from thieves on the street, then re-sold and shipped them to DG Auto in New Jersey for processing. Over the course of the conspiracy, defendant Tyler James Curtis received over $13 million in wired funds from DG Auto for the shipment of catalytic converters and received over $500,000 from Capital Cores for catalytic converters. Defendant Adam G. Sharkey received over $45 million in wired funds from DG Auto. And defendant Martynas Macerauskas received over $6 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters. In all these incidents, most of the catalytic converters sold to DG Auto were stolen, and DG Auto knew or should have known that when they paid for them. 

The 13 defendants are Navin Khanna, 39, of Holmdel, New Jersey; Adam Sharkey, 26, of West Islip, New York; Robert Gary Sharkey, 57, of Babylon, New York; Tyler James Curtis, 26, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Benjamin Robert Mansour, 24, of Bixby, Oklahoma; Reiss Nicole Biby, 24, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Martynas Macerauskas, 28, of Leila Lake, Texas; Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21, of Leila Lake, Texas; Parker Star Weavel, 25, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Shane Allen Minnick, 26, of Haskell, Oklahoma; Ryan David LaRue 29, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Brian Pate Thomas, 25, of Choteau, Oklahoma; and Michael Anthony Rhoden, 26, of Keifer, Oklahoma.

Trial Attorney Danbee C. Kim of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica M.A. Alegría for the Eastern District of California, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reagan Reininger and David Nasar for the Northern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the cases.

The FBI Sacramento, IRS-CI Sacramento, HSI Tulsa, and IRS-CI Tulsa are investigating the cases.

English Dutch French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

2022 Business Survey


Social Media Accounts:

Please select all social media outlets that your business currently utilizes.

Social Media
If you selected "other", please submit your response here.
If you selected "other", please submit your response here.
Has your business/organization been negatively impacted by COVID-19?
Has your business/organization been negatively impacted by COVID-19?
If you selected "other", please submit your response here.
If you could receive an assistance grant, how much would your business/organization need to properly recover?
If you could receive an assistance grant, how much would your business/organization need to properly recover?
If you selected "more", please submit your response here.
If you are a restaurant, have you used outdoor dining during the Pandemic and would you like to continue or enhance outdoor dining?
If you are a restaurant, have you used outdoor dining during the Pandemic and would you like to continue or enhance outdoor dini
If you selected "other", please submit your response here.
If you responded "yes" or "other", how long would you like to continue to have the ability to conduct outdoor operations?
If you responded "yes" or "other", how long would you like to continue to have the ability to conduct outdoor operations?
If you selected "other", please submit your response here.
What type of assistance would be helpful for your business/organization now and in the future? (Select all that apply)
What type of assistance would be helpful for your business/organization now and in the future? (Select all that apply)
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.
Address
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

This form is for businesses that are physically located at a Lake Forest address.

 

Business Address
Please enter Mailing Address information, if different from Business Address.
Home-Based Business?
If yes, you do not need to enter Property Manager Contact Information on the following page.

Commercial Business Additional Information

Applicable if you are a commercial or a home-based business.

Reason(s) for locating Business in Lake Forest:

Property Manager Contact Information

Applicable if you are leasing or own commercial property.

PLEASE DO NOT COMPLETE THIS SECTION IF YOU ARE A HOME-BASED BUSINESS.

Property Manager Address

Business Watch - Emergency Contact Information

Please complete the following emergency contact information if your business wishes to participate in the Orange County Sheriff's Department "Business Watch Program". You will be contacted and provided with additional information and receive a "Business Watch" decal.

PLEASE DO NOT COMPLETE THIS SECTION IF YOU ARE A HOME-BASED BUSINESS.

More Information on Lake Forest Business Watch:

Business Watch | Lake Forest, CA

To learn more about the Lake Forest Business Watch Program, please visit the link above.

Please enter the name of an individual to call in case of an emergency. They must have keys to your business.
Please enter the name of an individual to call in case of an emergency. They must have keys to your business.
Do you have an alarm system?
Do you have surveillance cameras?

Lake Forest Chamber of Commerce Membership

Membership Application

Joining the Lake Forest Chamber of Commerce offers numerous opportunities to network, gain valuable experience, expand your business, and more. If you are interested in joining or would like more information, select the link above.

CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

CCA

Address
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

City of Lake Forest SMS Sign Up

Please provide the following information to join the waiting list for the Lake Forest CERT program.
Previous Experience Please check all that apply
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

Expand the Forest

Expand the Forest Beautification Program

Public Works Department | 100 Civic Center Dr. | Lake Forest, Ca 92630 | (949) 461 - 3493


Applicant Information

Address

Note: Due to the health and wellbeing of the selected trees, plantings will occur only from October 1st though December 1st and March 1st through June 1st. Staff will contact you during this time frame. Dedication plaques are not allowed. 


Location

 

Disclaimer: If a planting date cannot be arranged, the tree(s) will be planted by the end of the planting period. 

 


Type of Tree


Dedication

The City Council Certificate: The dedication and sponsor(s) information will appear on the City Council signed certificate mailed to you after the tree planting has occurred.

(Example: In loving memory of John Doe, a great friend and co-worker) 


Payment

The cost of the Expand the Forest Program is $93.00/15 gallon tree. 

If Paying by Check, Mail to:

City of Lake Forest
Expand the Forest Program
100 Civic Center Dr.
Lake Forest, CA 92630

If Paying with Cash, Bring to:

City of Lake Forest
100 Civic Center Dr.
Lake Forest, CA 92630

If Paying by Credit Card

Credit card payments are accepted through eLakeForest.com with a 3.29% service fee. Register for a new account through eLakeForest.com.

 

CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

Lake Forest eNewsletters

Thanks for your interest in joining our mailing list. Please choose from any of the following areas of interest, and you'll be automatically signed up to receive electronic newsletters.

Email Lists

By submitting this form, you are granting: City of Lake Forest, 25550 Commercentre Drive, Lake Forest, California, 92630, United States, http://lakeforestca.gov permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.

CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Vet / Clinic:
20780 Lake Forest Dr., Lake Forest, CA 92630, (949) 600-8310
23162 El Toro Frontage Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630 (949) 837-5222
29040 Portola Parkway, Lake Forest, CA 92630 (949) 380-1255
24301 Muirlands Blvd Ste P, Lake Forest, CA 92630, (949) 837-7660
22377 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630, (949) 855-9744
3 Rancho Circle, Lake Forest, CA 92630, (949) 581-7979

Owner Information

City: Lake Forest

CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.
CAPTCHA Check the box to complete captcha challenge.