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Seven arrested for stealing catalytic converters from over 470 vehicles

It is believed that a significant number of additional thefts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have not been identified or were not ever reported to law enforcement

Boston—Seven members of an organized theft crew were arrested on Wednesday and charged in federal court in Boston in connection with thefts across the region, including catalytic converters stolen from over 470 vehicles.

Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center or ‘core’ and are targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals — including palladium, platinum and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years, with black-market prices being more than $1,000 each.  
According to the United States Attorney’s Office – District of Massachusetts, law enforcement throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire identified a large number of catalytic converter thefts for which a maroon Acura was identified as having been involved. These incidents involved at least two suspects wearing dark clothing, who would target residential and commercial vehicles. The suspects were skilled and able to locate and cut away the catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute in most instances. The suspects utilized battery operated power-tools, specifically a fast-cutting reciprocating saw. Some vehicles needed to be jacked up in order to access the catalytic converters and the suspects would promptly place the jack under the vehicle, raise it, cut the catalytic converter, stow it in the rear of the maroon Acura and move on.

The investigation revealed that the maroon Acura belonged to Rafael Davila, the alleged theft crew leader who planned and participated in each of the thefts. It is alleged that Rafael Davila engages in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis, committing thefts multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night. Additionally, cell phone data allegedly revealed that Davila maintained meticulous notes accounting for the locations that he and his co-conspirators had targeted and the number of catalytic converters that had been stolen, including the makes and models and when they were dropped off. 

It is alleged that Davila would undertake the thefts with a group of individuals. He was allegedly responsible for the planning of and transportation to each targeted theft — using his vehicle, determining price values for stolen converters and purchasing needed materials. Specifically, he allegedly regularly purchased large quantities of bi-metal saw blades designed to be used with a reciprocating power saw as well as cut resistant gloves which, according to surveillance footage, appear identical to those worn by the thieves.  

Surveillance footage, communications and location monitoring data obtained from the defendants’ cell phones and Davila’s vehicle, identified that the defendants were allegedly involved in the theft of catalytic converters from at least 471 vehicles across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 2022 and 2023 alone. It is believed that a significant number of additional thefts have not been identified or were not ever reported to law enforcement, however. It is alleged that, on numerous occasions, the defendants targeted more than 10 vehicles in a single night, with one night reporting thefts from 26 vehicles.  

Once in possession of the stolen catalytic converters, the crew would then allegedly sell them to Jose Torres, 37, of Springfield, Mass., who would accumulate stolen catalytic converters from multiple theft crews and then in turn sell them to scrap dealers in the Northeast. In particular, Torres allegedly sold stolen catalytic converters to scrap dealers who have since been charged federally for interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering, including Alexander Kolitsas and Downpipe Depot charged in the District of Connecticut, as well as DG Auto, a New Jersey-based company charged in the Eastern District of California and Northern District of Oklahoma. Torres is alleged to have transacted approximately $30,000 to $80,000 in stolen catalytic converters per week to these entities.

Through use of digital pricing applications, and communication with the core buyers, Torres allegedly provided prices to Davila and other theft crews based of the make and model of the vehicle and by the code on the catalytic converter. Knowing the prices of the most valuable converters, Davila and his crew would seek out those makes and models to target. Torres then negotiated with the core buyer and delivered the catalytic converters to their facility. It is alleged that Torres is known to have sold and transported thousands of stolen catalytic converters to scrap dealers in the Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey areas.

The charge of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of interstate transportation of stolen property provides for a sentence of up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

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