Wilmington Police Contributed To Investigation That Led To Springfield Man Pleading Guilty To Charges Related to Catalytic Converter Thefts & Money Laundering

Below is a press release from U.S. District Attorney’s Office:

BOSTON, MA — A Springfield man pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Boston to charges related to the theft and transportation of stolen catalytic converters and the sale of stolen catalytic converters to core buyers in other states.

Jose Torres, a/k/a “Goldy,” a/k/a “Goldy Tech,” 37, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with conspiracy transport stolen property in interstate commerce, interstate transportation of stolen property, and conspiracy commit money laundering. U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin scheduled sentencing for Sept. 6, 2023.

Torres and six other men were arrested on April 12, 2023, and charged with offenses related to the theft, transportation, and sale of stolen catalytic converters taken from over 470 vehicles during 2022 and 2023.

Catalytic converters are a component of a vehicle’s exhaust device that reduce the toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle’s internal combustion engine into safe emissions by catalyzing a redox reaction process. They are required components on all combustion engine automobiles in the United States as regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center or “core” and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals – including palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years, with black-market prices being more than $1,000 each.

Catalytic converter theft has become a nationwide problem across a multitude of state, local, and federal jurisdictions. Catalytic converters thieves, sometimes referred to as “cutters,” conduct searches in residential neighborhoods, parking lots, and other locations to steal the most high-value catalytic converters. Located in a vehicle’s undercarriage, the theft of a vehicle’s catalytic converter results in damage that renders the vehicle inoperable – both mechanically and legally under EPA regulations – until properly replaced.

According to the charging documents, law enforcement throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire identified a large number of catalytic converter thefts for which a Maroon Acura was identified as having been involved. These incidents involved at least two suspects wearing dark clothing, who would target residential and commercial vehicles. The suspects were skilled and able to locate and cut away the catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute in most instances, using battery operated power-tools, specifically a fast-cutting reciprocating saw. Some vehicles needed to be jacked up in order to access the catalytic converters and the suspects would promptly place the jack under the vehicle, raise it, cut the catalytic converter, stow it in the rear of the Maroon Acura and move on.

According to the charging documents, the investigation revealed that the Maroon Acura belonged to Rafael Davila, allegedly the theft crew leader who planned and participated in each of the thefts. It is further alleged that Rafael Davila engaged in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis, committing these multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night. Additionally, cell phone data allegedly revealed that Rafael Davila maintained meticulous notes accounting for the locations that he and his co-conspirators had targeted and the number of catalytic converters that had been stolen, including the makes and models, and when they were dropped off.

It is alleged that Rafael Davila would undertake the thefts with a group of individuals, including his brother Nicolas Davila, Fonseca, Feliberty and Marshall. As leader of the crew, Rafael Davila was allegedly responsible for the planning of and transportation to each targeted theft – utilizing his vehicle, determining price values for stolen converters and purchasing needed materials. Specifically, it is alleged that Rafael Davila regularly purchased large quantities of bi-metal saw blades designed to be used with a reciprocating power saw as well as cut resistant gloves which, according to surveillance footage, appear identical to those worn by the thieves

Surveillance footage, communications and location monitoring data obtained from the defendants’ cell phones and Davila’s vehicle identified that the defendants were allegedly involved in the theft of catalytic converters from at least 471 vehicles across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 2022 and 2023 alone. It is believed that a significant number of additional thefts have not been identified or were not ever reported to law enforcement. It is alleged that, on numerous occasions, the defendants targeted more than 10 vehicles in a single night, with one night reporting thefts from 26 vehicles.

Once in possession of the stolen catalytic converters, the crew would then allegedly sell them to Torres. It is alleged that Torres who would accumulate stolen catalytic converters from multiple theft crews and then in turn sell them to scrap dealers in the Northeast. In particular, Torres sold stolen catalytic converters to scrap dealers who have since been charged federally for interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering, including Alexander Kolitsas and Downpipe Depot charged in the District of Connecticut, as well as DG Auto, a New Jersey based company charged in the Eastern District of California and Northern District of Oklahoma. Torres transacted approximately $30,000 to $80,000 in stolen catalytic converters per week to these entities.

Through use of digital pricing applications, and communication with the core buyers, Torres allegedly provided prices to Davila and other theft crews based of the make and model of the vehicle and by the code on the catalytic converter. Knowing the prices of the most valuable converters, Davila and his crew would seek out those makes and models to target.  Torres then negotiated with the core buyer and delivered the catalytic converters to their facility. Torres is known to have sold and transported thousands of stolen catalytic converters to scrap dealers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey areas.

The charge of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of interstate transportation of stolen property provides for a sentence of up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to commit bank theft provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of bank theft provides for a sentence of up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the proceeds, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; John E. Mawn, Interim Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police; and Kevin Gallagher, Director of Operations for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Northeast Region made the announcement. Valuable assistance was also provided by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Connecticut, the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Eastern District of California; Homeland Security Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; and the New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN). Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of Levy’s Organized Crime & Gang Unit is prosecuting the case.

Over 70 local police departments in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut contributed to this investigation through the submission of their investigations of catalytic converter thefts in their jurisdiction. The Massachusetts Police Departments contributing to the investigation were Abington, Acton, Andover, Auburn, Bedford, Bellingham, Beverly, Billerica, Burlington, Bridgewater, Canton, Carver, Chelmsford, Concord, Cranston, East Hampton, Easton, Fitchburg, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Hampton, Hanover, Haverhill, Hingham, Holliston, Holyoke, Hudson, Ipswich, Lawrence, Leominster, Lynn, Malden, Mansfield, Medford, Marlborough, Methuen, Middleton, Milford, Millbury, Needham, Newton, Northborough, Norwell, Norwood, Peabody, Pembroke, Plymouth, Randolph, Rockland, Sharon, Shrewsbury, Springfield, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Tyngsborough, Walpole, Waltham, Watertown, West Bridgewater, Weymouth, Wilmington, Woburn and Worcester. The New Hampshire Police Departments contributing to the investigation were Bow, Concord, Derry, Hooksett, Hudson, Londonderry, Manchester, Salem and Windham. The South Windsor and Windsor Connecticut Police Departments also contributed to the investigation.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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