TULSA – A 40-count federal indictment was unsealed Wednesday charging 13 defendants with taking part in a large-scale conspiracy to steal catalytic converters from vehicles then sell them to wholesale buyers outside the state of Oklahoma, including New York and New Jersey. 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.
Operation Heavy Metal is a joint investigation involving the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Tulsa Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigations, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office.
“These arrests send a clear message - Oklahoma is doing more than ever to crack down on catalytic converter theft and hold criminals accountable,” said Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. “I applaud the efforts of our agents and our law enforcement partners who worked on this case. The takedown is a continuation of our efforts to make our communities safer and protect Oklahomans from fraud and theft. This criminal activity will not be tolerated in Oklahoma.”
“The Tulsa Police Department originated this investigation within our jurisdiction and diligently followed leads which stretched across the United States,” said Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin. “Complex investigations are the very reason why we work collaboratively with federal agencies to leverage resources and additional expertise. Large criminal organizations such as the catalytic converter theft ring wreak havoc to consumers and legitimate businesses. This criminal enterprise caused additional strain of an already tight supply chain, which resulted in a false increase in demand and significant price spikes. The cost of such criminal activity has been passed on to all consumers involved in the automotive industry. Taking down this large criminal enterprise should cause some relief to consumers. I commend the men and women of the Tulsa Police Department and every other law enforcement agency involved in bringing down this criminal enterprise.”
According to court documents, the defendants bought stolen catalytic converters, then resold and shipped them to DG Auto, operated by defendant, Navin Khanna (aka Lovin Khanna), in New Jersey for processing.
Catalytic Converters are part of a car’s exhaust system that converts harmful engine-exhaust pollutants into something less harmful to the environment through a chemical reaction. They contain valuable metals, including platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Due to the worldwide supply shortage of precious metals contained in the catalytic converters, these large-scale criminal organizations reap sizeable profits. 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.
The Eastern District of California simultaneously unsealed a second indictment, charging an additional nine defendants for catalytic converter theft conspiracy.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Tips to protect your car from catalytic converter theft:
- Find secure parking: Park in a locked garage, or in a well-lit, enclosed lot if you can. If you’re parking in a driveway, consider installing motion sensor lights or security cameras.
- Alert local law enforcement: Even if you drive an older car and it doesn’t seem worth it, alert local law enforcement and your insurer if your catalytic converter does get stolen.
- Know if you’re a target: Vehicles that have two catalytic converters like energy efficient vehicles or electric vehicles that are hybrids are often targeted. Larger trucks and SUVs tend to also be targeted. Larger engines mean more valuable catalytic converters and their height from the ground makes their converters easier to access for thieves. For a list of the most targeted cars visit: https://www.carfax.com/blog/catalytic-converter-theft.
- Engrave your VIN on it: Consider engraving your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter, making it easier to identify you as the owner. A mechanic can do the engraving for you. It could also alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and they might decline to buy it.
To view the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release: click here.
To view the DOJ press release: click here.