Investigators have arrested more than a dozen people suspected of being involved in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in cities throughout the Bay Area, according to San Jose police.
The arrest of 15 suspects over several weeks was the culmination of a six-month investigation into the thefts that also netted more than $50,000 in cash, four handguns and an illegal assault rifle, ammunition, evidence of identity theft, tools and more than 1,000 catalytic converters investigators believe were stolen from various Bay Area locations, police said in a news release Monday.
The investigation, dubbed "Operation Cat Scratch Thiever," wrapped up on Nov. 16 and was in response to what San Jose police said is a sharp increase of such thefts over the past couple of years.
For example, 84 catalytic converter thefts were reported in 2019 in San Jose, 724 were reported in 2020 and 1,087 were reported in the first ten months of 2021, according to information from San Jose police.
Detectives collaborated with outside agencies and the department's crime analysis unit to identify prolific thieves and illegal purchasers of the stolen property, according to Monday's announcement from San Jose police.
The suspects, who range in age from 22 to 81, are all San Jose residents and face a variety of potential charges, including grand theft, receiving
stolen property, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of illegal weapons, police officials said.
"Detectives also shut down three businesses that appeared to cater to thieves, often purchasing cut catalytic converters with no questions asked," according to police.
One of the businesses is a recycling company allegedly owned by Robert Frank, 52, who is accused of being in possession of about $3 million worth of stolen catalytic converters, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
Frank's arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 23 of the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.
Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle's emission reduction system and are built using a variety of valuable metals.
They can be cut from the undercarriage of vehicles in just a few minutes and sold for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, according to the District Attorney's Office.