The Beaverton Police Department (OR) dismantled a local organized crime ring responsible for catalytic converter thefts up and down the West Coast. The 13 suspects now indicted are accused of trafficking more than 44,000 stolen catalytic converters with an estimated street value of more than $22 million.
The crime ring shipped large boxes of catalytic converters to the East Coast and internationally, police say.
The investigation began in late 2021 when detectives said Tanner Lee Hellbusch, 32, of Beaverton, was running an illegal fencing operation by posing as a legitimate business buying and selling catalytic converters, reports OregonLive.
In March, police stopped Hellbusch with more than 100 stolen catalytic converters worth about $80,000. That led police to Brennan Patrick Doyle, who detectives allege was the head of the ring.
In late July, police searched eight locations including a lake house in Lake Oswego. There they arrested Doyle and found 3,000 catalytic converters, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a high-end car, and jewelry.
“The defendants in this case were living a nice life,” said Officer Matt Henderson, a spokesperson for Beaverton police, at a Thursday press conference.
Oregon lawmakers passed a bill last year, Senate Bill 803, to crack down on catalytic converter thefts by prohibiting scrap metal businesses from buying them from anyone but commercial sellers, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting. The bill also requires scrap metal businesses to retain the vehicle identification numbers and license numbers associated with each converter, to make them easier to track.