A group of Chicago residents traveled to Pittsburgh to steal more than $200,000 worth of catalytic converters from vehicles, according to Pennsylvania authorities. Two of the accused men were the subject of a CWB Chicago report eight years ago after they were found in a van with 24 stolen catalytic converters on the North Side.
Christian Buie, 31, Harold Wade, 29, and Antonio Johnson, 42, are being held without bail on charges of corrupt organizations, conspiracy, theft, and related offenses, the Greensburg Tribune-Review reported this week.
Investigators said the men traveled to Pennsylvania in December, then went on a catalytic convert theft spree while driving a rented Porsche Panamera and an SUV.
But, rather than target cars parked on residential streets, the group decided to take the easier route by simply going to car dealerships and taking the catalytic converters off of vehicles offered for sale, the Pennsylvania paper reported.
One chain of dealerships had 35 catalytic converters stolen from Mitsubishi Outlanders. Total damage: $124,000. Another $20,000 worth of catalytic converters were stolen from tow trucks.
Investigators learned that the Porsche was near the theft sites and linked the vehicle to a rented SUV. Police determined that two Chicago women leased the cars, the Tribune-Review reported.
Authorities sifted through data from cellphone towers near the theft sites for phone activity from Chicago-based phone numbers and identified Buie, Wade, and Johnson as prime suspects.
On Friday, Pennsylvania investigators placed a GPS tracker on a car they suspect the trio was using to commit more catalytic converter thefts in Pittsburgh. The tracker pinged near several locations where catalytic converter thefts were reported over the weekend, the paper said.
Police arrested the three men during a traffic stop on Saturday and allegedly found 17 catalytic converters in their SUV.
Back in January 2015, Buie and Wade were among five men who were riding in a minivan that crashed in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood with 24 stolen catalytic converters inside.
Unlike their Pennsylvania counterparts, Chicago prosecutors only charged the men with misdemeanors. They all received probation.