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Feds say they've busted a catalytic-converter theft ring that ferried thousands of sawed-off converters from Massachusetts to precious-metal extractors in other states

Catalytic converters in the back of the maroon Acura this morning

The back of Davila's MDX, filled with catalytic converters, taken just this morning, FBI says.

Federal officials today announced the arrests of seven men they say spent recent years detaching catalytic converters from vehicles across Massachusetts for sale outside the state - led by a man who apparently never watched The Wire, because part of the evidence against him consists of extensive notes the feds say he kept on "the extensive criminal conspiracy that he orchestrated."

The ring was based in the Springfield area, but members drove as far as Boston suburbs - including Newton, Waltham and Needham, where they allegedly used a reciprocating saw to separate catalytic converters from their vehicles just yesterday.

One ring member would then sell the devices to a Connecticut wholesaler, who in turn would ship them to shops in New York and other states that specialized in extracting the precious metals, such as platinum, that make the converters work - and which are the main reason they're so expensive to replace.

According to an affidavit by an FBI agent, when not sawing off catalytic converters, ring members took time to knock over ATMs and break into jewelry and hardware stores - they particularly liked to steal snowblowers. Among the extensive array of photos used to identify ring members were surveillance images from a number of Home Depots.

Agents brought in to help local police deal with a rapid escalation of catalytic-converter thefts last year quickly noticed that a maroon Acura MDX often showed up in surveillance photos of parking lots where cars were losing their converters, without which they become undriveable - they ultimately linked it to 470 separate thefts in 2022 and 2023.

They tied the car to Rafael Davila, of the Springfield suburb of Feeding Hills, whom they eventually tagged as the ring leader.

Once in possession of the stolen catalytic converters, the investigation revealed that Rafael DAVILA routinely transferred them to Jose TORRES, a/k/a "Goldy" who would accumulate stolen catalytic converters from multiple theft crews. TORRES would then transport bulk quantities of stolen catalytic converters to dealers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the New York / New Jersey area, who would buy them and refine them. In particular, TORRES sold stolen catalytic converters to entities and individuals who have since been federally indicted for interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering offenses related to catalytic converter thefts. These individuals include Alexander Kolitsas of Downpipe Depot charged federally in the District of Connecticut, Lovin Khanna, and Ishu Lakra of DG Auto, a New Jersey based company charged federally in the Eastern District of California and Northern District of Oklahoma.

Ad for Torres's scrap company, from the FBI affidavit:

Ad offering to buy catalytic converters

The affidavit continues:

DAVILA is not known to be gainfully employed and investigators are not aware of DAVILA travelling to a place of employment during 2022. Based upon the number of incidents to which he is connected, his statements and text messages, DAVILA is believed to engage in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis, committing these crimes multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night. ...

Among the vehicles identified to be acquired by DAVILA with the proceeds of the thefts are: a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, the Maroon Acura MDX, a black Chevrolet Suburban, a Honda Goldwing motorcycle, a Can-Am Spyder, and approximately six other motorcycles that are stored in DAVILA's basement (including a Husqvarna Supermoto, BMW S1000 RR, Orange Honda CBR1000 RR Sport, Red Suzuki GSX-R and a Can-Am Spyder). DAVILA is also believed to have accumulated large amounts of cash: as DAVILA would later tell his girlfriend, that he has cash stashed in his house ("I don't need good luck I have money in the bank I have money stashed in the house I have two beautiful kids I have everything I ever dreams for and I have good credit").

Agents swarmed suspects' homes this morning to arrest them and use search warrants to gather evidence - which they say included catalytic converters, Sawzalls, gloves - and guns, one recovered from an old-fashioned record player at the home of Davila's brother, Nicolas:

On April 12, 2023, investigators executed a search warrant at Nicolas DAVILA’s residence on Trafton Street in Springfield, MA. Initially, the parents of Nicolas DAVILA told the swat team that Nicolas DAVILA that he was not present. During the subsequent search Nicolas DAVILA was located hiding in the residence under a bed.

Main affidavit (9.3M PDF).
Affidavit on today's raids (871k PDF).



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That looks like a CAPTCHA, jeez.

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...is part of Springfield, like Dorchester is part of Boston. It isn't a suburb.

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Feeding Hills is a section of Agawam.

- Former resident

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Feeding Hills got whacked by a tornado in Oct '79 when I lived in Agawam. The tornado went thru Bradley Field in CT, totally destroying an outdoor air museum there, and worked its way north to FH. This was the first time I saw the destruction a tornado can do first-hand. I drove out that way and saw nothing for awhile, then BAM - total destruction of trees in a narrow band. Crazy stuff.

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Good to know the buyers were arrested also.

I don't know the procedure to differentiate between someone who has collected from junked cars and who has stolen them from working cars, but there ought to be some simple rules to do that.

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and I have good credit

Famous last words.

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What he didn't have was a backup plan.

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Navin “Lovin” Khanna of New Jersey owned an auto shop that allegedly bought and resold stolen converters. He was also one of the leaders of a theft ring of catalytic converters where recently 21 people from five states were arrested. The theft ring was brought down because he had a necklace with a charm shaped like a catalytic converter, and he was showing it off on his social media. Which led authorities to him, and the rest of the ring.

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