(The Center Square) – Four Minnesota men have been indicted for stealing and selling $21 million worth of stolen catalytic converters, said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
Court documents state that during the 29 months from May 2020 to October 2022, John Charles Kotten, 41, of Hutchinson, Justin Tyme Johnson, 32, of St. Paul, Soe Nye Moo, 31, of St. Paul, and James Dillon Jensen, 34, of Minneapolis, and others acquired stolen catalytic converters and transported them across state lines to buyers.
Catalytic converters are emissions control devices that contain precious metals, including palladium, platinum and rhodium, to reduce toxic gases and pollutants from a vehicle’s engine and filter them to produce safer emissions.
As part of the conspiracy, individuals operating as street cutters allegedly stole catalytic converters from vehicles throughout Minnesota and shipped them to Kotten or Johnson.
Kotten and Johnson allegedly met directly with the cutters to purchase stolen catalytic converters, and they sometimes instructed the cutters to transfer the catalytic converters to intermediary buyers acting on their behalf, such as Jensen and Moo.
After receiving stolen catalytic converters, the defendants allegedly concealed and stored the inventory for shipment across state lines. After sorting, categorizing and evaluating the intended loads, the defendants allegedly transported the stolen catalytic converters across state lines using rented U-Haul trailers and personal vehicles. Payments for the stolen catalytic converters typically took the form of wire transfers, cash, checks or a combination of both, the indictment states.
Kotten and others purchased scrap or junk cars from individual sellers or at auction to make it appear like they were running a legitimate auto scrapping and recycling business in case they made the subject to audit or investigation, according to the indictment.
The defendants allegedly sold the coins to a small number of large buyers based in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Colorado and New York.
The indictment charges Kotten, Johnson, Moo and Jensen with conspiracy to transport stolen property interstate.
Kotten and Johnson are charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, conspiracy to commit money laundering and making false statements to a financial institution. Johnson was also charged with conspiracy to launder money – receiving stolen property, and Moo was charged with possession of a machine gun.