SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Three people from Sacramento are facing charges of allegedly buying and transporting stolen catalytic converters across state lines from an unlicensed business operated from their home as part of a theft network worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to court documents, family members Tou Sue Vang, 31, Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, are three of nine people in California being charged with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.
The three people in California are part of 21 total defendants in five states charged or arrested in connection to the theft network, the DOJ said in a statement.
The DOJ said the three family members from Sacramento allegedly bought stolen catalytic converters from their Sacramento home and were shipping them to a New Jersey business named DG Auto Parts.
According to the DOJ, more than $38 million worth of stolen catalytic converters were sold to the New Jersey business.
Navin Khanna, 39, Tinu Khanna, 35, Daniel Dolan, 44, Chi Mo, 37, Wright Louis Moseley, 50, and Ishu Lakra, 24, are the other six defendants in the case in the Eastern District in California, although they were operating multiple DG Auto locations in New Jersey, the DOJ said.
At those locations, metals from inside the catalytic converters were removed through a process called “de-canning” and these metals were sold to a refinery for $545 million, the DOJ said.
The New Jersey defendants are facing the same faces as the Vang family in Sacramento.
“They knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a ‘de-canning’ process, extracted the precious metal powders from the catalytic core,” the DOJ said in the release. “DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $545 million.”
The alleged operation was part of a national crackdown on catalytic converter thefts across the country. The DOJ said arrests and seizures also took place in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.
A catalytic converter changes harmful components from the engine’s emissions into safer gases before they’re released into the air.
The DOJ said catalytic converters are regularly targeted by thieves due to the high value of their precious metals including 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 DOJ said. “The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute.”