The Justice Department announced charges against 21 individuals involved in an organized theft of catalytic converters. From 2018 to 2020, catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed by nearly 700%. Catalytic converters are now big money due in large part to the precious metals used in the manufacture of devices. They are designed to convert harmful gas emissions created by your vehicle into non-harmful gas emissions that reduce smog and protect the environment. Without a catalytic converter, your car will not run properly, either. As the value of these precious metals has increased over the past few years (think inflation), catalytic converters are becoming a prime target for thieves.
As of right now, some states have moved to place catalytic converters on a list of restricted items that require ownership documentation and provenance to exchange. Others have yet to pass legislation addressing the thefts of catalytic converters, but as the situation worsens, chances are likely that more states will join in to include catalytic converters on lists of restricted items.
The 21 individuals charged in the ring lived in nine separate states. 32 search warrants were executed, and millions in assets were seized as a part of the investigation.
California Leads Nation in Catalytic Converter Thefts
California has higher emission standards than any other state in the country. They also have more people. Hence, there are more catalytic converter thefts in California than anywhere else in the country. California officials state that there are nearly 2,000 catalytic converter thefts per month. In 2018, there were less than 2,000 reported catalytic converter thefts all year.
Why are Catalytic Converters Lucrative?
We tend to think of the value of the dollar as static, but it really is not. It fluctuates. When the value of the dollar goes down, specific assets, such as heavy metals, will appear as though they are gaining value. However, the metals do not actually gain value. It would be like measuring a door with a yardstick and then a ruler. The ruler is smaller, so the door appears larger. Meanwhile, the door is the same size, but the measuring stick you are using has changed. That is precisely what is happening with heavy metals and the dollar.
Since the dollar is the measuring stick, the heavy metals appear to be gaining value as the value of the dollar gets smaller. It is also why anytime there is concern over the economy, you will find people buying and selling gold and advertising their services on the radio.
As the value of the heavy metals in catalytic converters rises, so too does the cost of catalytic converters and the cost of replacement to consumers. While thieves can make a couple grand from each stolen converter, a driver is left with upwards of $10,000 in damage to their vehicle.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Inflation got you down? Call Chicago criminal defense attorney David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and allow us to begin preparing your defense immediately.