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California family sent stolen catalytic converters to New Jersey in $38M scheme

A worker welds guards to protect a car's catalytic converter from theft.
Officials say about 1,600 catalytic converters are stolen each month in California. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Three members of a California family pleaded guilty to participating in a nationwide catalytic converter theft conspiracy.

Brothers Tou Sue Vang, 32, and Andrew Vang, 28, and their mother Monica Moua, 58, admitted to conspiring to transport stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey in exchange for over $38 million in wire payments, authorities announced Monday.

READ MORE: Bay Area Catalytic Converter Theft Suspects Busted With $260K in Cash

Tou Sue Vang also pleaded guilty to 39 additional money laundering charges.

In October and November last year, law enforcement officials across the U.S. cracked down on a national network of thieves, dealers and processors involved in stealing and selling catalytic converters.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals and are frequently stolen and sold on the black market for high prices. Officials say about 1,600 catalytic converters are stolen each month in California.

A large pile of catalytic converters found in raids are strewn across a sidewalk against a wooden fence.
Piles of catalytic converters were found in raids on a suspected theft ring in Alameda County in June. | Source: Courtesy CHP Golden Gate Division

According to court documents, the Vangs and Moua operated an unlicensed business from their Sacramento home, where they purchased stolen converters and shipped them to a New Jersey metal refinery that bought over $38 million worth of stolen parts from them.

READ MORE: Santa Clara’s Catalytic Converter Theft Hot Spots Mapped

The refinery operators then extracted and sold the precious metal powders for over $600 million.

Also charged in the 2022 indictment were co-defendants Navin Khanna, also known as Lovin Khanna, 40; Tinu Khanna, aka Gagan Khanna, 36; Daniel Dolan, 45; Chi Mo, aka David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 25, all of New Jersey, who operated DG Auto in multiple locations in that state.

READ MORE: Catalytic Converter Thieves Explain They ‘Gotta Eat’ as They Hold Berkeley Business Owner at Gunpoint

Court documents say they knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a “de-canning” process, extracted precious metal powders from the catalytic core.

Prosecutors say DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $600 million. Authorities noted that the charges against the DG Auto owners are only allegations and that they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

As for the Vangs and Moua, who already pleaded guilty, they face up to five years in prison when sentenced. Tou Sue Vang could face additional time based on the money laundering charges. They also face hefty fines.

The investigation involved the FBI, IRS and several California law enforcement agencies.