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Police: Portland area crime ring trafficked 44,000 stolen catalytic converters; 14 indicted

Beaverton police say they arrested the leader of a crime ring that’s responsible for trafficking more than 44,000 stolen catalytic converters since January 2021.

Detectives say they identified 32-year-old Brennan Patrick Doyle as the leader of the operation in March. They say they searched his waterfront Lake Oswego home last week, along with seven other properties, and seized more than 3,000 catalytic converters.

Doyle and his associates are accused of an organized effort to steal catalytic converters from vehicles up and down the West Coast. The crime ring was centered in the Portland metro area, but reached as far as New York and Texas, according to Beaverton police spokesperson Matt Henderson.

The exhaust pipe of an abandoned car missing its catalytic converter, rests on the ground in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Officers normally assigned to a unit that deals with livability issues like graffiti, nuisance businesses and abandoned cars have been shifted to the city center and violent hot spots around Philadelphia, where the homicide rate reached a record high last year.

The metals inside catalytic converters can sell for thousands of dollars per ounce. The street value of the parts stolen and trafficked by this crime ring is estimated to be over $22 million.

Oregon lawmakers passed a bill last year, Senate Bill 803, to crack down on catalytic converter thefts by prohibiting scrap metal businesses from buying them from anyone but commercial sellers. The bill also requires scrap metal businesses to retain the vehicle identification numbers and license numbers associated with each converter, to make them easier to track.

To avoid catalytic converter theft, police in several jurisdictions — including Bothell, Washington — recommend painting your vehicle’s catalytic converter with bright orange, high-temperature paint.

But Henderson of Beaverton police said there’s no aftermarket tool he knows of that’s been wildly successful in preventing the thefts.

“The people that are removing them from vehicles are so adept at doing so, that it’s almost like a pit crew at a NASCAR race,” Henderson said. “I mean, they can get these things off in seconds.”

The parts are also hard to track once they’re separated from the vehicle. For now, he wants people to be aware of how often and how quickly it’s happening, and do little things to help curb it.

“Be aware of where you’re parking,” Henderson said. “See if you can park in a well-lit area, or an area that has video surveillance, so that there’s something that authorities can do — there’s something to follow up on — should this happen to you.”

Doyle was indicted on 72 different charges, including racketeering, aggravated theft, and money laundering. Police say one of his associates, 32-year-old Tanner Lee Hellbusch of Beaverton, was caught with over 100 catalytic converters in March. He was indicted on 20 similar counts.

Investigators say at least 12 other people face charges in connection within the operation.

Source: OPB

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