COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a nine-month investigation, law enforcement arrested a man they say was running a catalytic converter theft ring in central Ohio.
Tommy Cox, of south Columbus, was arrested in March and charged with 32 felony counts connected to the alleged theft ring that stretched multiple counties.
Groveport police detective Josh Gilbert says Cox was paying people to cut catalytic converters from vehicles as well as stealing them himself.
Cox is accused in more than 1,100 catalytic converter thefts. His charges include felony theft, receiving stolen property, money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Thefts of the exhaust emission control devices from vehicles have jumped over the past two years as prices for the precious metals they contain have skyrocketed. Thieves sell the converters to scrap yards, which then sell them to recycling facilities to reclaim the precious metals inside, including platinum, palladium and rhodium.
For victims, the costs of replacing a stolen catalytic converter can easily top $1,000 and make their vehicle undrivable for days or weeks as the part is ordered and installed.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau said the number of catalytic converter thefts reported in claims to insurance companies jumped from 3,389 in 2019 to 14,433 in 2020. NICB President David Glawe said there was a significant increase in thefts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in thefts has prompted states across the country to toughen penalties and impose new requirements for scrap metal dealers who buy the converters.
Police believe Cox's arrest, and the arrests of his accomplices, may help reduce the number of catalytic converter thefts in central Ohio, but until the law changes, thieves will continue to crawl under cars in search of a quick score.
You can read 10 Investigates' full piece about the loophole in Ohio law that allowed the theft ring to flourish and the efforts underway to close it here.