Three members of California family pleaded guilty to their roles in a $600 million nationwide catalytic converter theft ring that operated over a three-year period, prosecutors say.
The Vang family were part of a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring that ceased operations in October of 2022 after authorities coordinated a takedown of thieves, dealers and processors over a $600 million sale to a metal refinery.
Monica Moua, 58, and her two sons Tou Sue Vang, 32, and Andrew Vang, 28 were paid over $38 million to transport stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey, federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of California announced Monday. All pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey in return for the multi-million dollar payments.
Tou Sue Vang also pleaded guilty to an additional 39 charges related to money laundering.
Nine people, including members of the Vang family, out of 21 people believed to be involved in the ring, will face charges in California.
Catalytic converter thefts: Drive a Ford, Honda or Toyota? Good news: Catalytic converter thefts are down nationwide
How did the family sell so many catalytic converters?
Prosecutors said the Vang family ran the operation from their home in Sacramento. After purchasing stolen catalytic converters from local thieves, they shipped the catalytic converters to DG Auto Parts, an LLC registered in New Jersey.
Six people who were managing multiple DG Auto locations in New Jersey had knowingly purchased the stolen catalytic converters and extracted the metal powders in the catalytic converter core, federal prosecutors allege.
The group then proceeded to sell the powders to a metal refinery for money.
Monica Moua and Andrew Yang are both facing up to five years in prison, while Tou Sue Vang could potentially serve anywhere between 5 and 20 years per count, in addition to fines that carry different stipulations per charge.
Midsized vehicles Seven midsized cars went through a crash safety test. These three received ‘poor’ ratings.
What makes a catalytic converter so valuable?
The part itself isn’t as valuable as what’s inside it.
Catalytic converters were designed to reduce the amount of toxins and pollutants inside a vehicle’s internal combustion engine.
Precious metals inside the catalytic converter’s core including palladium, platinum, rhodium can be sold for large profit. Some of the metals found in the core are more valuable than an ounce of gold, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The amount of money paid for a stolen catalytic converter can vary based on the model of the vehicle and its location, but the part’s can generally get $1,000 a piece.
The state of California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims reported around the country, with approximately 1,600 stolen monthly in 2022.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nationwide catalytic converter theft ring tied to Sacramento family