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New Jersey family charged in $38M California catalytic converter theft scheme

A mechanic works under a lifted vehicle, fixing or inspecting a component.
A New Jersey family has been charged for their alleged part in a $38 million scheme to steal catalytic converters from California motorists and sell them. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Five members of a New Jersey family have been charged in connection with a nationwide catalytic converter theft conspiracy worth $38 million in which the parts were stolen in California and shipped across the country, authorities said.

Brothers Navin and Tinu Khanna were initially indicted in November 2022. The Khanna brothers operated DG Auto in New Jersey. They purchased over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters from a California family who pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy in October 2023.

After their arrests, their mother, Anita Khanna, 63; father, Nirmal Khanna, 73; and brother Michael Khanna, 42, continued to purchase stolen car parts via DG Auto, prosecutors said.

The Khannas sold the extracted precious metals from catalytic converters to two metal-refinery employees, Alfredo Mejia, 40, and Vishnu Chintaman, 54, who knew the materials were from stolen converters, feds allege. Both men have also been charged in the newly unsealed indictment. The refinery paid DG Auto over $621 million.

The Khannas used Ricky Vega, 39, who has been charged with brokering transactions between DG Auto and the metal refinery, authorities claim. The investigation involved the FBI, IRS and several California law enforcement agencies. If convicted, the six additional defendants face up to five years in prison and $78 million in fines.

Authorities noted that charges are only allegations and that they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The California family members who previously pleaded guilty to participating in the nationwide catalytic converter theft conspiracy.

A large pile of catalytic converters found in raids are strewn across a sidewalk against a wooden fence.
Catalytic converters found in raids of a suspected theft ring in the Bay Area sit on the sidewalk. | Source: Courtesy CHP Golden Gate Division

Brothers Tou Sue Vang, 32, and Andrew Vang, 28, and their mother Monica Moua, 58, admitted to conspiring to transport stolen catalytic converters to New Jersey. Tou Sue Vang also pleaded guilty to 39 additional money laundering charges.

The Vangs and Moua operated an unlicensed business from their Sacramento home, where they purchased stolen converters and shipped them to the refinery, according to court documents.