U.S. District Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery in Connecticut announced the unsealing of a nine-count indictment that charges five men with federal offenses related to their participation in a stolen catalytic converter trafficking ring.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in New Haven, charges the five men with conspiracy to transport stolen property and interstate transportation of stolen property.
Avery was joined in the announcement by James Ferguson, Boston-based special agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and Joleen D. Simpson, special agent with the IRS criminal investigation unit in Boston.
“Catalylic converter thefts are more than just an annoying property crime for victims, they increase insurance rates for all car owners and increase pollution in the air we breathe,” said Avery. “We have also seen a rise in violence connected to catalytic converter theft incidents. This criminal activity would not exist but for the salvagers and metal processors who orchestrate these thefts and purchase the stolen converters.”
IRS Special Agent Simpson said the indictment is a “first of its kind” in federal prosecution but suggested more are coming. “We know that there are similar schemes all across the country. If nothing else, this case should serve as a stark warning to all of those involved in these types of schemes that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ you will be brought to justice but ‘when’,” Simpson said.
The indictment names James Alexander Kolitsas, Bryant Bermudez, Roberto Alicea, Francisco Ayala and Theodore Roosevelt Owens.
The indictment alleges that Kolitsas owned and operated Downpipe Depot & Recycling, which had a warehouse on Park Avenue in East Hartford. Bermudez started working with Kolitsas at Downpipe Depot in November 2021. At Downpipe Depot, Kolitsas and Bermudez allegedly purchased stolen catalytic converters from a network of alleged thieves, including Alicea, Ayala and Owens. Kolitsas and Bermudez instructed their suppliers on the types of catalytic converters that would obtain the most profit upon resale, according to officials. Kolitsas and Bermudez then allegedly transported and sold the catalytic converters to recycling businesses in New York and New Jersey.
The indictment alleges that, as part of the scheme, Downpipe Depot received $237,329 via wire transfer shortly after Kolitsas transported a load of catalytic converters, including stolen converters, to Freehold, New Jersey, in October 2021. Also, on two occasions in March 2022, Kolitsas transported catalytic converters, including stolen converters, to Island Park, New York, and sold them for a total of approximately $300,000 in cash.
Law enforcement officials said they have been investigating the theft of catalytic converters from motor vehicles across Connecticut. A catalytic converter contains precious metals, can easily be removed from its vehicle, and is difficult to trace, making it a desirable target for thieves. The average scrap price for catalytic converters currently varies between $300 and $1,500, depending on the model and type of precious metal component, according to court documents.
U.S. Attorney Avery said that the investigation is ongoing.
An indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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