Pennsylvania law enforcement officers arrested 11 people, including a youth, allegedly involved in a catalyst ring responsible for more than $8 million in thefts in the Delaware Valley.
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said a nearly year-long investigation has led to Philadelphia-based TDI Towing charging 10 adults and a minor with crimes including corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, trafficking in proceeds of illegal activity and related charges.
Catalyst thefts across the country, including Bucks County, have skyrocketed in recent years, primarily because of three precious metals found in them: rhodium, platinum, and palladium.
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THE BROTHERS OF NEW YORK WOULD HAVE TRADED CATALYSTS, STRIPPED THE PRECIOUS METALS AND MADE MILLIONS
A catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle outside TDI Towing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Bucks County District Attorney)
The value of the three metals skyrocketed during the pandemic because of supply chain issues, and those metals can be extracted from catalysts and sold.
The units can also be cut from vehicles in about a minute, making it a money grab for thieves.
Between 2020 and 2023, the district attorney’s office said, thousands of catalytic converters were pulled from vehicles in Bucks County, resulting in costly repairs.
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The Bucks County, Pennsylvania District Attorney announced the arrests of 11 people allegedly involved in a catalyst theft gang that stole more than $8 million in units. (Bucks County District Attorney)
Investigators allege that TDI Towing was the leading purchaser of catalytic converters stolen in Buck and Montgomery counties.
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The tow company reportedly paid about $1,000 for a single catalytic converter and would pay out a minimum of $10,000 per night to thieves who went to the tow yard to sell the units.
TDI Towing advertised its hours as daytime, even though people would show up all night to sell catalytic converters, the district attorney’s office said.
An investigation involving thousands of hours of yard surveillance, controlled sales, and other sophisticated techniques helped detectives identify thieves and buyers.
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An aerial view of TDI Towing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Bucks County District Attorney)
Researchers claim that TDI Towing purchased an average of 175 catalysts per week for about three years, or 27,300 during those three years, with workers paying an average of $300 each for $8.2 million.
Michael Williams, 52, of Philadelphia operated TDI Towing, and his organization consisted of a few people who had a family connection, including his sister-in-law Lisa Davalos, 47.
The district attorney’s office said other workers at the tow yard included Eric Simpson, 41, of Philadelphia; Michael Bruce, 30, of Sewell, New Jersey; Kevin Schwartz, 33, of Philadelphia; Patrick Hopkins, 24, of Philadelphia; and a 17-year-old boy.
IN 2022, 153,000 CATALYSTS WERE STOLEN AND THESE 10 VEHICLES ARE THE MAIN TARGETS
Williams is accused of taking the catalysts to a different location every week, sometimes more than once a week, to sell them.
The district attorney’s office identified the cutters, or thieves, as Michael Evangelist, 35, of Philadelphia; Anthony Davalos, Sr., 43, of Philadelphia; Richard Allan Page, 39, of Warminster; and Gary Shirley, 48, of Hatboro.
Everyone has been charged except Page, whom detectives are trying to locate.
TDI and its associates have been charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, trafficking in proceeds of unlawful activity, theft by wrongful removal, theft of catalyst, theft by receipt of stolen property, possession of a criminal instrument and criminal use of a communications facility.
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The investigation is ongoing and, according to the Public Prosecution Service, even more people can be charged for their involvement in the theft of and trade in catalytic converters.
Greg Wehner is a breaking news reporter for Fox News Digital.