Tyler Curtis (Tulsa Police Department)
TULSA, Oklahoma (KTUL) — Catalytic converter theft cases stopped for the first time nationwide on Wednesday.
A person suspected of being the mastermind behind the operation appeared in Tulsa County Courthouse this afternoon.
Defendant Tyler Curtis was charged with 40 counts.
“We’re talking about a $545 million catalytic converter theft,” said Clint Johnson, US Attorney for Northern Oklahoma. “We’ve executed 32 warrants in nine different states and have 13 unsealed defendants in northern Oklahoma.”
Thirteen defendants in Oklahoma, including Curtis, were charged with felony charges of conspiracy, taking stolen property and money laundering.
Although nine other states were involved, the majority of these catalytic theft operations occurred in Oklahoma and accounted for 13 of 32 charges.
The investigation began after the Tulsa Police Department learned that catalytic converter theft had increased by 700% in Tulsa over the course of a year.
“2000 catalytic converters have been removed from vehicles, premises and private vehicles in the Tulsa metro area,” Johnson said. “The TPD submitted to the Department of Justice that it believes it is more than mere theft of property.”
Johnson said the Department of Justice used all its expertise and people to solve the case. The HSI, FBI and IRS joined the investigation, leading to large-scale prosecutions against individuals.
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said the case was actually more than just property theft.
“In the course of this investigation,” Franklin said, “we learned about homicide and drug activity caused by this kind of theft.”
They discovered that the men behind the operation were shipping the converter to an auto shop in New Jersey.
Johnson said three of the masterminds received more than $60 million in wire transfers from stolen catalytic converters.
“There are heavy metals in it,” Johnson said. “Platinum, palladium, rhodium. These actually have a flat market value of $1000 an ounce. They are more than gold.”
545 million in this case.
Investigations are ongoing in nine other states. However, here in the northern Oklahoma area, individuals have all made their first appearances, and they plan to go through court proceedings and go to trial.