San Jose-On Monday, a full investigation into a large-scale Bay Area catalytic converter theft gang resulted in the arrest and criminal charges of more than a dozen people, and the closure of three scrap metal stores because the authorities’ goal was to affect thousands of car owners. Criminal activities in recent years.
The arrest took place in the past month and ended a six-month investigation conducted by the San Jose Police (led by its anti-theft department), the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the San Mateo and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, and the Police Department . State Automobile Maintenance Bureau.
According to the San Jose Police, 15 people, ranging in age from 22 to 81, were arrested on suspicion of theft, receiving stolen goods, possession of illegal weapons and assault with lethal weapons. Most of those arrested are residents of San Jose. Prosecutors said that as of Monday afternoon, 14 of them had been charged.
Robert Charles Frank, a 52-year-old Campbell resident, faces the most severe allegations after conducting a secret investigation that led to the discovery of more than 1,500 catalytic converters at his Green Metal Recycling company in St. Many bearings may be traces removed from the car. Jose.
The police said that the investigation disclosed on Monday was partly due to a sharp increase in reports of catalytic converter thefts, which reduce the toxicity of gas engine internal combustion engine emissions and contain precious metals, including platinum, palladium or rhodium. With the tightening of automobile emission standards, the value of metal has skyrocketed, and the use of cordless saws and tire jacks can quickly carry out converter theft.
Peak thefts have been reported across the country, mainly for older hybrid vehicles, because the location of the converter makes it easy to access without installing any aftermarket barriers. This year, other nearby cities, including San Leandro, Livermore, San Bruno and Santa Cruz, also reported similar trends and spikes in converter theft.
"They are so brazen," said Susan Hesson, a San Jose resident, whose Toyota Prius was the target of a catalytic converter theft in September, even though his car was parked in a gated garage. "They came at noon and still managed to slip under my car."
Marc Sanchez owns a machinery shop in Sunnyvale that specializes in Prius repairs. He said he receives weekly calls about catalytic converters.
"It's getting worse and worse, and it's rising," Sanchez said. “It only takes two minutes to steal without a protective cover, and if they don’t have insurance, it will cost $3,000.”
According to data released by the San Jose Police, the number of reported catalytic converter thefts in the city increased from 84 in 2019 to 784 in 2020, and reached 1,087 by the end of October this year, an increase in less than two years. 1,200%. The data for the past year and a half is consistent with most of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdown orders and movement restrictions caused thousands of cars to park on city streets for several days, usually at the same location.
"Our communities are increasingly plagued by such crimes, and I thank our detectives for their collaborative efforts... arrest and prosecute these people, while preventing any other possible imitation thieves," San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said. Said in a statement.
The allegations of assault on some of the arrested persons stemmed from the occurrence of converter theft, or were interrupted by the owner of the car. In an unrelated case, the police suspected that an Evergreen man was shot in March when he encountered a group of people trying to steal a catalytic converter from a car parked in his driveway.
Investigators identified Green Metal Recycling and two other companies in San Jose-a second-hand auto parts purchaser and another metal recycling store-which they claimed "appeared to cater to thieves, often buying without asking any questions." Catalytic converters.” The police stated that these stores have been flagged to the city prosecutor’s office for further action.
The prosecutor said that after searching Frank’s company and home, the police confiscated $50,000 in cash, a pistol, a weapon they called an illegal assault rifle, 1,200 armor-piercing ammunition, and “boxes of more than 1,500 stolen cases. Catalytic converter", valued at a total of approximately US$3 million.
The detective wrote in a police report that these converters were “packed in boxes and on pallets” and that “many converters have jagged cutting marks because they are removed from the exhaust system with a metal cutting saw. Removed."
According to reports, in a subsequent police interview, Frank told detectives that he had been recycling the catalytic converters he had received "from multiple sources" for the past two decades and traveled to Central Valley, Chico Region, and Nevada. The state retrieved them. The police said he told them that he shipped them in bulk to smelting companies in Texas and Virginia.
The police wrote that after an undercover police officer contacted Frank in September and sold him the catalytic converter twice, Frank became the focus of the investigation, and the police officer made it clear that he had been stolen. But in a later police interview, it was reported that he told detectives that he would not deliberately buy the stolen catalytic converter.
In addition to allegations of theft of property, Frank was also charged with weapons and child endangerment. A detective previously reported that Frank lived with his young son and was in an unlocked room on the floor of Frank’s home office. A rifle was found in the box, next to a pile of Lego bricks.
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