Feds bust nationwide catalytic converter theft ring with Wagoner County ties
By John Dobberstein, Editor
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the takedown Wednesday of a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, including prosecution of illegal activities centered eastern Oklahoma.
Authorities announced the arrest and indictment of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.
Arrests, searches and seizures took place in California, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. In total, 21 people in 5 states have been arrested and/or charged for their roles in the conspiracy, the DOJ said in a statement.
The 21 defendants are charged in two separate indictments that were unsealed in the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma following “extensive law enforcement arrest and search operations,” prosecutors said.
In addition to the indictments, over 32 search warrants were executed, and law enforcement seized millions of dollars in assets, including homes, bank accounts, cash and luxury vehicles.
“In Tulsa alone, more than 2,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the past year,” said U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma. “Organized criminal activity, including the large-scale theft of catalytic converters, is costly to victims and too often places citizens and law enforcement in danger.
“The collective work conducted by federal prosecutors and more than 10 different law enforcement agencies led to the filing of charges in the Northern District of Oklahoma against 13 defendants operating an alleged catalytic converter theft operation.”
“This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process—on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners. Today’s charges showcase how the FBI and its partners act together to stop crimes that hurt all too many Americans.”
In Oklahoma, a federal grand jury returned a 40‑count indictment charging 13 defendants with conspiracy to receive stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.
According to court documents, together the defendants bought stolen catalytic converters from thieves on the street, then re-sold and shipped them to DG Auto in New Jersey for processing.
Over the course of the conspiracy, prosecutors say 26-year-old Tyler James Curtis of Wagoner received over $13 million in wired funds from DG Auto for the shipment of catalytic converters and received over $500,000 from Capital Cores for catalytic converters.
Defendant Adam G. Sharkey received over $45 million in wired funds from DG Auto. And defendant Martynas Macerauskas received over $6 million in payments from DG Auto for catalytic converters. In all these incidents, most of the catalytic converters sold to DG Auto were stolen, and DG Auto knew or should have known that when they paid for them, prosecutors alleged.
The 13 defendants are Navin Khanna, 39, of Holmdel, New Jersey; Adam Sharkey, 26, of West Islip, New York; Robert Gary Sharkey, 57, of Babylon, New York; Tyler James Curtis, 26, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Benjamin Robert Mansour, 24, of Bixby, Oklahoma; Reiss Nicole Biby, 24, of Wagoner, Oklahoma; Martynas Macerauskas, 28, of Leila Lake, Texas; Kristina McKay Macerauskas, 21, of Leila Lake, Texas; Parker Star Weavel, 25, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Shane Allen Minnick, 26, of Haskell, Oklahoma; Ryan David LaRue 29, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Brian Pate Thomas, 25, of Choteau, Oklahoma; and Michael Anthony Rhoden, 26, of Keifer, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation are: IRS-CI Tulsa, Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office and Broken Arrow Police Department.
Eastern District of California Case
A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California returned a 40‑count indictment charging nine defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and other related charges.
According to court documents, brothers Tou Sue Vang, 31, and Andrew Vang, 27, and Monica Moua, 51, all of Sacramento, Calif., allegedly operated an unlicensed business from their personal residence in Sacramento where they bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves and shipped them to DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for processing.
The Vang family allegedly sold over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.
Defendants Navin Khanna, aka Lovin Khanna, 39; Tinu Khanna, aka Gagan Khanna, 35; Daniel Dolan, 44; Chi Mo, aka David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 24, all of New Jersey, operated DG Auto in multiple locations in New Jersey.
They knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a “de-canning” process, extracted the precious metal powders from the catalytic core. DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $545 million.