Eco-Criminals at Large: Why Catalytic Converter Trafficking is on the Rise Across Six States

March 29, 2023
1 min read

The removal of a catalytic converter from a car is a sure signal of trouble, which can cause multiple problems for car owners, and cars that make loud noises are a hassle. Catalytic converters are a high-value car part and are often stolen for their precious metals, such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium. In August 2022, Oregon, detectives identified a man who led a catalytic converter trafficking operation worth $22 million and spanning six states.

A jury indicted a dozen people on charges of racketeering, aggravated theft, and money laundering, among various other charges related to the trafficking operation. Catalytic converters are essential because they filter out harmful engine exhaust pollutants, by converting them into compounds that already make up our atmosphere.

Catalytic converters with superior designs can reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by up to 90% and 25-35% of Diesel Particulate Matter emissions. House Bill 78, sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, aims to crack down on the spike in catalytic converter thefts by imposing rules on scrap yards’ purchase or sale of catalytic converters.

Delaware is a hotspot among the top 10 states with the highest per capita theft rate for catalytic converters. Thieves are stealing catalytic converters because they contain extremely valuable precious metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium.

Federal guidelines have made it mandatory for all cars made after 1975 to have catalytic converters. As per the Environmental Protection Agency, starting in 1988, anyone caught installing or selling a catalytic converter that hasn’t met federal guidelines may face penalties of up to $25,000 for each installation.

Many states, like California, Colorado, New York, and Maine, have imposed stricter regulations for catalytic converters and made CARB-compliant converters that meet much higher environmental standards mandatory. Most catalytic converters cost between $800 and $1,200, and the costs for installing them on the vehicle are between $1,000 and $3,000.

If HB 78 is passed, catalytic converters cannot be sold for cash, and buyers must collect and maintain records about the seller and the sale. All sales must occur between 6am and 9pm, and buyers can only receive the catalytic converter at the address on their business license.

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