Here’s some good news, Chicago.
Federal authorities have arrested 21 people who are allegedly part of a massive nationwide operation that trafficked and processed stolen catalytic converters. The ring, which officials said had revenues of at least $545 million, even had its own apps, website, and formal shipping arrangements to make trafficking in the stolen parts easy.
Indictments alleging the interstate transportation of stolen property, money laundering, and other federal violations have been filed in California and Oklahoma. The ring allegedly operated from October 2019 until last month.
In one complaint, prosecutors said the crew’s shipments “typically weighed thousands of pounds and included hundreds of stolen catalytic converters.” Investigators worked with confidential informants and tracked dozens of payments worth millions of dollars.
Officials said the operation “DG Auto” bought stolen catalytic converters from thieves across the country and then extracted valuable precious metals, including rhodium, palladium, and platinum, by “decanning” the devices.
In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said investigators executed 32 search warrants as they broke up the ring. Federal agents conducted investigations in several states, including Wisconsin, but no Illinois connections were revealed in court filings.
The federal government wants the accused to forfeit homes, cash, jewelry, cars, and other property worth $545 million.
One accused man, Navin “Lovin” Khanna, had a $1.7 million home in New Jersey. His Instagram account leads to the website dgauto.app, where people can “instantly grade converters” with “live market data” and “ship directly to DG with UPS.”
DG offered three levels of subscriptions to users, ranging from the Ruthenium starter package to the mid-range Platinum and the top-level Palladium.
“GIVE IT A TRY,” the site offers, “Search your code against the largest and most accurate catalytic converter database — plus get our pricing on one converter for free*. Once you are convinced, sign-up and partner with DG to grow your business.”
The site also offers Android and Apple apps to make dealing with the company even easier.
Khanna’s Instagram, which is now set to private, recently showed him wearing a necklace bearing a catalytic converter-shaped charm.
In the California complaint, federal prosecutors said some catalytic converters could be worth more than $1,000 each on the black market. Prius models are often targeted because their catalytic converters “employ a very high concentration of palladium,” the complaint said.
State Farm Insurance recently announced that it paid out $5.3 million for 2,770 catalytic converter theft claims in Illinois during the first eight months of this year, a 500% increase in claims since 2019. Our state ranks third in catalytic converter theft payouts, behind California and Texas, the company said.