Over 70 Mass., Conn. and N.H. PDs contributed to investigation that busted catalytic converter theft ring
The ring was responsible for nearly 500 catalytic converter thefts, as well as thefts of jewelry stores and ATMs
By Jill Harmacinski
BOSTON — Police from the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire assisted federal agents with an investigation into a regional theft crew that stole catalytic converters from 492 vehicles as well as thefts from ATMs and jewelry stores, authorities said.
The theft crew was responsible for an estimated $2 million in losses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the past two years, according to information released by the Department of Justice.
Federal records show police from Andover, Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, police departments as well as officers from Derry, Londonderry and Windham, New Hampshire, were involved in the investigation.
They were among 70 police departments in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut that “contributed to this investigation through the submission of their investigations of catalytic converter thefts in their jurisdiction,” according to federal investigators.
A member of the theft crew — Zachary Marshall, 25, of Springfield — pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property in federal court this week.
He is now scheduled for sentencing in federal court in Boston on Feb. 7.
Marshall and six other men are facing federal charges after they were arrested in April for offenses related to the theft, transportation and sale of catalytic converters, according to the DOJ.
“Catalytic converter theft has become a nationwide problem across a multitude of state, local, and federal jurisdictions due to the high-valued precious metals they contain — some of which are more valuable than gold, with black-market prices being more than $1,000 each in recent years. The theft of a vehicle’s catalytic converter results in damage that renders the vehicle inoperable — both mechanically and legally under EPA regulations — until properly replaced,” according the information released.
While seven in the crew were arrested, investigators believe a significant number of catalytic converter thefts “have not been identified or were not ever reported to law enforcement.”
“The crew was skilled and able to locate and cut away the catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute in most instances — often utilizing battery operated power-tools, car jacks. It is alleged that, on numerous occasions, the defendants targeted more than 10 vehicles in a single night, with one night reporting thefts from 26 vehicles,” according to the DOJ.
Investigators said the crew was led by Rafael Davila, who engaged in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis — committing thefts multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night.
Davila “was allegedly responsible for the planning of and transportation to each targeted theft — using his vehicle, determining price values for stolen converters and purchasing needed materials.
It is further alleged that he maintained meticulous notes accounting for the locations that he and his co-conspirators had targeted and the number of catalytic converters that had been stolen, including the makes and models and when they were dropped off,” according to the DOJ.
Marshall participated in thefts of catalytic converters from 107 vehicles over the course of 10 separate instances between Jan. 19, 2023 and April 6, 2023 — most of which targeted vehicles in more than one municipality over the course of a single night, authorities said.
Once in possession of the stolen catalytic converters, the crew would then sell them and they would end up with scrap dealers “transacting approximately $30,000 to $80,000 in stolen catalytic converters per week,” according to the DOJ.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime & Gang Unit is prosecuting the case. Mallard was previously an Assistant District Attorney in Essex County.
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