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Federal and State authorities have arrested a prolific car theft gang in Massachusetts.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts announced the arrests on Wednesday. Seven individuals were arrested for allegedly stealing the catalytic converters from some 470 cars between 2022 and 2023. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the thieves were extremely skilled and were able to extract the part from the cars in less than a minute in most cases.
“The members of this criminal network arrested today, under the cloak of darkness, traveled throughout our state cutting valuable catalytic converters from vehicles owned by unsuspecting citizens and businesses,” Massachusetts State Police Interim Col. John Mawn Jr. said in a statement via the New York Post. “Their criminal acts violated the security and rights of vehicle owners, necessitated costly repairs, and interfered with commercial operations of business owners and the daily lives of numerous victims.”
According to the press release, law enforcement officials from Massachusetts and New Hampshire identified a maroon Acura SUV which was involved in several catalytic converter thefts. Authorities also identified at least two suspects. The suspects targeted residential and commercial vehicles; the thieves were skilled, and using jacks and power tools, were able to cut away the part from the underside of a car. They then placed the parts in the back of the Acura and moved on.
The thieves were reportedly able to make off with the catalytic converters within a minute in most cases. At a press conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins played surveillance video of the incidents. “Like a NASCAR pit crew, these videos depict the skill and speed with which these individuals could jack up a vehicle and cut the catalytic converter out,” Rollins said.
According to the report, the maroon Acura belonged to the crew leader, who planned and participated in each theft. It is alleged that he committed these crimes on a full-time basis, working multiple nights per week for more than eight hours per night. Altogether, the ring was responsible for the thefts of at least 471 catalytic converters across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 2022 and 2023 alone. It is alleged that on multiple nights, they targeted more than 10 vehicles in a single night; in one night, they committed 26 thefts.
The thieves then sold them to a chop-shopper who accumulated stolen catalytic converters from multiple theft crews and in turn, sold them to scrap dealers throughout the Northeast, including several dealers who have since been charged for transportation of stolen property and money laundering. Catalytic converters reduce pollutant gases from car engines into safe emissions using chemical reactions. The catalysts for the chemical reactions include precious metals like palladium, platinum, and rhodium; they are extremely rare and more valuable per ounce than gold. Stealing a catalytic converter also renders the vehicle inoperable, both mechanically and legally.
The thieves are also alleged to have conspired to steal from ATMs of banks in Massachusetts on three separate occasions in December 2022. They are also alleged to have burglarized two New Hampshire jewelry stores in January 2023.
The thieves are charged with conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, which carries a five-year prison term, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine; interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a 10-year prison term, supervised release, and another $250,000 fine; conspiracy to commit bank theft, which also carries five years in prison, supervised release, and a $250,000 fine; bank theft, which carries 10 years, supervised release, and a $250,000 fine; and conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a 20-year prison term and a $500,000 fine.