I-Team Investigation: Tracking stolen catalytic converters

Tracking catalytic converter thefts
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - It’s no secret that catalytic converter thefts are soaring.

The I-Team is looking at where they go after getting stolen and who’s buying them.

Stealing a catalytic converter takes minutes and can put hundreds of dollars in thieves’ pockets.

“Now, it’s become a mainstream revenue source for criminals,” said Sgt. Mark Cleverdon with the South Windsor Police Department.

Eyewitness News wanted to know where the thieves go and who is lining their pockets.

The I-Team went to local scrap yards to try to understand the buying and selling process and what happens to these parts after they’re stolen.

Our first goal was getting a suspicious number of catalytic converters to sell.

Cleverdon said it won’t take many.

“I would say anything more than one, there should be more questions raised,” Cleverdon said. “Very likely you wouldn’t have two or three or four or five or six cars you need to do this to.”

The I-Team went to local mechanics asking if we could borrow their converters for this report and we got three.

Like Cleverdon said, this amount should draw a red flag. Eyewitness News has no idea what their value is.

The I-Team’s first stop was Hartford Metal Solutions.

We drove up in our unmarked van and parked over a scale that weighed our van.

We told the attendant we had catalytic converters to sell and were immediately denied.

The attendant directed us to the scrapyard owner, Greg Chomko.

“You didn’t even entertain our offer for catalytic converters, why is that?” The I-Team asked.

“It’s not worth my time. If someone comes in with catalytic converters, the police call and ask if I buy them and I say, ‘yes,’ and next thing I know I’m spending four or five hours with the police going through my records,” said Chomko.

Chomko said most local scrap yards aren’t taking them.

Eyewitness News tried another scrap yard in South Windsor and were rejected there too.

“If you’re not taking them, who is?” the I-Team asked.

“My guess would be probably small repair shops,” Chomko said.

Thefts are rampant and thieves are still getting money somewhere.

“There’s obviously a market for those materials,” said Eric Cook.

Eric Cook is the owner of a garage, and he runs the very popular Eric the Car Guy YouTube channel.

He tried to help the I-Team trace the pipeline of money that starts with this simple car part.

“They’re obviously being sold somewhere, so where are they going?” Eyewitness News asked.

“To me it seems like organized crime or perhaps other countries are involved with this as well,” Cook said. “The catalytic converters don’t necessarily need to be sold here. They can be put on a ship, then sold someplace else. There’s obviously a market for those materials.”

On July 1, Connecticut will get even tougher on the record keeping of the precious car part.

Anyone buying a converter will need to document and:

The seller’s driver’s license,

The license plate of the car that was used to transport the converter,

Along with a photo or video of the seller and their license.

Sellers will only be able to sell one converter a day and will only get paid by a check mailed to their home address.

Buyers will have to submit all this info to Connecticut State Police once a week.

Cleverdon said the law is well intentioned and while it may curb the sales of converters here, he doesn’t expect the thefts to stop in our neighborhoods.

“It’s going to be problematic. If someone can drive an hour, 30 minutes away from out of Connecticut to sell these no questions asked, what’s going to stop them from continuing to take them off of cars?” said Cleverdon.

The thefts are still a problem, and the thieves are still on the prowl looking to make money off these parts.

Hartford Metal Solutions said they still get four or five calls a day asking if they buy catalytic converters.