ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – The owner of an Athens business and a second man are facing charges after a Limestone County Sheriff’s Office stakeout.
The sheriff’s office said on Facebook that they had received several complaints from residents about the business L & C Converters (25730 U.S. Hwy 72, Athens) owned by Jimmy Lee Free Jr. The business is a secondary metal recycler that purchases catalytic converters.
On July 21, while Limestone County investigators were watching L &C Converters they said saw several people exchange catalytic converters with Free for cash. Officials said one of the individuals seen delivering converters was identified as Gary Joseph Swearinger.
According to LCSO officials, investigators found Swearinger had a warrant with the Athens Police Department and arrested him. The LCSO Narcotics Unit found marijuana, methamphetamine, pills and fentanyl on Swearinger.
Investigators said they found 36 catalytic converters in plain view and Free failed to have the proper documentation for any of them.
46-year-old Free has been arrested and charged with 36 counts of ownership documentation required for catalytic converter purchase. He was taken to the Limestone County jail on a $180,000 bond. Free was also out on probation at the time and faces revocation, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Per Alabama law, it is unlawful for a secondary metals recycler to purchase catalytic converters that are not part of an entire motor vehicle. However, if a copy of verifiable documentation, in addition to a signed statement is provided to the secondary metals recycler proving that the seller is the owner, then it is permissible. Failure to comply with this law is a Class B Felony and could result in up to 20 years in prison,” the sheriff’s office explained.
41-year-old Swearinger was charged with three counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. He was released from the Limestone County jail on an $8,500 bond.
Sheriff Joshua McLaughlin said on the incident, “We have arrested 6 individuals, on a total of 131 charges related to the theft of catalytic converters, in the past 12 days. We will not tolerate catalytic converter crimes in Limestone County.”