US: Catalytic converter thieves amassed half a billion dollar loot

The facts could a priori make you smile but the loot is enough to realize the importance of the case. US police announced on Wednesday that they have dismantled networks of catalytic converter thieves who have amassed crazy sums estimated at more than half a billion dollars.

Twenty-one people have been arrested and charged in connection with the sweep across the United States, according to a federal police statement. “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars off the backs of thousands of innocent motorists,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

The price of rare metals has exploded

Catalytic converters are used to reduce the harmfulness of gases emitted by exhaust pipes. They include many precious metals (platinum, palladium and rhodium) whose value has exploded in recent years. Easy to steal, they can be resold for more than 1000 dollars each on the black market.

In California alone, 1,600 catalytic converters are stolen every month, according to Phillip Talbert, a federal prosecutor in that state. Three of the people charged, originally from California, are accused of having earned $38 million by taking part in this traffic.

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