Federal Authorities Arrest New Jersey Business Owner And 21 Arrests In CA, MN, NJ, NY, NV, NC, OK, VA and WY Involved In Trafficking Stolen Catalytic Converters
NEW JERSEY, November 4, 2022—A New Jersey business knowingly trafficked catalytic converters stolen from around the country in a scheme that netted more than $545 million in illicit gains, federal authorities said as they announced twenty-one arrests targeting the alleged nationwide criminal enterprise.
The takedown led to arrests Wednesday and searches in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia, according to officials. As part of the investigation, authorities seized millions of dollars in various assets, including houses, bank accounts, cash and luxury vehicles and charged six New Jersey residents.
Catalytic converters are car parts that have increasingly been stolen around the country for the precious metals used in the parts and ease of the theft. The converters, which resemble small mufflers, are used to convert exhaust into less toxic gasses.
Federal agencies, including the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and IRS Criminal Investigation worked with local police to disrupt the conspiracy that linked street-level thefts to a multi-million dollar scheme, according to officials.
“This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process—on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners. Today’s charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”
The defendants were charged in separate federal indictments in California and Oklahoma with crimes, including conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering and related offenses.
“Amidst a rise in catalytic converter thefts across the country, the Justice Department has today carried out an operation arresting 21 defendants and executing 32 search warrants in a nationwide takedown of a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft network,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the announcement.
In California, Tou Sue Vang, 31, Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, allegedly ran an unlicensed business from their Sacramento home that bought stolen catalytic converters from area thieves and shipped them to New Jersey-based DG Auto Parts LLC. They allegedly sold more than $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.
The Monmouth County-based firm “knowingly purchased” the stolen car parts and used a “de-canning” process to extract the valuable precious metal powders from the catalytic core, according to authorities. DG Auto then sold the metal powders it processed from California and other sources to a metal refinery for more than $545 million, officials alleged.
In a separate case filed in Oklahoma, prosecutors said three defendants were paid more than $45 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters.
Navin Khanna, 39, Tinu Khanna, 35, Daniel Dolan, 44, Chi Mo, 37, Wright Louis Mosley, 50, and Ishu Lakra, 24, all of New Jersey, operated DG Auto and all face charges, the government’s announcement said.
In another indictment, thirteen people were also charged with buying stolen catalytic converters from thieves and reselling the parts to DG Auto, court documents stated.
As part of the investigation, agents raided locations in Monmouth and Burlington counties on Wednesday, according to the Newark field office of Homeland Security Investigations. Agents arrested eight people in Newark and New York, seized more than 200 pallets of catalytic converters, more than $2 million worth of “exotic automobiles,” and more than $1 million, twenty-nine ounces of gold bars, jewelry, and several pricey handbags.
“This criminal enterprise involved multiple suspects across the country culminating with the principal defendant residing and operating within the State of New Jersey and investigated by HSI,” said the agency’s Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel.
Federal prosecutors said they were seeking forfeiture of more than $545 million in the case.
Defense attorney information was not immediately available. DG Auto could not be reached for comment.
“This level of organized criminal activity is extremely costly and detrimental to victims and taxpayers…the increased number of these crimes poses a very legitimate threat to the U.S. economy.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Deputy Director Patrick Lechleitner.
Source: NJ.com reported the story.
Featured Photo: Homeland Security