Nearly a year after federal investigators unveiled a sweeping investigation into the black market sale of stolen catalytic converters, three Sacramento relatives have pleaded guilty to their roles in the case.
Tou Sue Vang, 32, and her brother Andrew Vang, 28, pleaded guilty Monday, alongside their mother, Monica Moua, 58, to “conspiring to transport stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey in exchange for more than $38 million in wire payments.” ”, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office.
Tou Sue Vang pleaded guilty to 39 additional money laundering charges, according to the Eastern District of California court release.
The three relatives were among 21 defendants charged with stealing, selling and converting the converters in November 2022 by the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Oklahoma.
“With California’s higher emissions standards, our community has become a hotbed for catalytic converter thefts,” said US Atty. Phillip A. Talbert of the Eastern District of California said at the time.
He said about 1,600 catalytic converters were stolen each month in California in 2021, with the state accounting for 37% of catalytic converter theft claims nationwide.
The Vang brothers and their mother pleaded guilty to a scheme to operate “an unlicensed business from their residence in Sacramento,” in which they “purchased stolen catalytic converters from local thieves” and sent them to an auto parts company in New Jersey, United States. the prosecutor’s office said.
They sold more than $38 million worth of stolen catalytic converters, which New Jersey’s DG Auto Parts then allegedly processed – alongside stolen converters in other states – by removing the precious metals that were sold to a refinery of metals worth more than $600 million, according to the indictments.
The indictments alleged that shipments from Sacramento to New Jersey began in October 2019 and continued through October 2022, with several payments exceeding $100,000.
The suspects were being recorded by confidential informants, according to the indictments.
Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system that reduces the amount of pollutants and toxic gases released from the internal combustion engine. The devices contain precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium in their core and are often targeted by thieves due to their high value, lack of identifying markings and relative ease of flight.
The Sacramento residents are not expected to be sentenced yet, but they could face prison terms and fines of up to “twice the gross gain or loss from the crimes,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said .
Times Staff Writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.