MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Mobile Police Department arrested Thanh Nguyen Wednesday for illegally collecting catalytic converters from those who stole them from underneath vehicles.
Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said the investigation, called ‘Operation Cat Snatch Fever,’ targeted the business that illegally took in the catalytic converters, which he argued further facilitated the thefts.
“Since that time, when Mr. Nguyen realized we were onto him, he stopped taking in a large portion of those catalytic converters,” Prine said.
After his arrest, Nguyen remained tight-lipped to the media.
“I just run a recycling business, that’s all,” Nguyen said.
Neighboring business owners described Nguyen’s business as ‘shady’ and said they noticed people dropping off parts frequently.
The City of Mobile is down 60% in catalytic converter thefts compared to this time last year, and Prine said that due to the streamlined investigation conducted by federal and local authorities.
“This time last year, we were at as much as 15, 16, 20 catalytic converters a week, and that was problematic,” Prine said. In June 2022, catalytic converter thefts swelled over 300% compared to 2021 numbers.
Prine said that victims of these thefts often file insurance claims, which he said affects more than just themselves.
“Catalytic converters are expensive, and most of the people in our community are going to file insurance claims to pay for that. My argument is that we all suffer and have to pay those insurance premiums,” Prine said.
A catalytic converter can be cut from underneath a car in less than 40 seconds, and Prine said that makes it difficult to catch thieves.
Prine said the arrest is pivotal to test a 2022 law that requires people turning in catalytic converters to show a copy of a valid business license, the make and model of the vehicle, the vehicle identification number, the name of the person who removed the converter, a copy of the seller’s driver’s license and a copy of the vehicle title.
“I cannot overstate the need of getting this prosecution because it is going to be as test case for the State of Alabama,” Prine said.
Prine said thieves are looking for the ‘precious metals’ inside the catalytic converters, which extremely rare, extremely expensive and extremely useful for various purposes.
“It goes to show, if you know something, you hear something, or you see something, you need the say something,” Prine said. There are ways to slow down a catalytic converter thief, such as catalytic converter covers and wire cages.