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Catalytic converter thefts: California family netted $38m transporting stolen devices as part of ‘network of thieves’

A mother and two sons have admitted to being part of a ring that shipped $600m (£492m) worth of stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey, federal prosecutors have said.

Brothers Tou Sue Vang, 32, and Andrew Vang, 28, along with their mother, Monica Moua, 58, were part of “a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors” who provided the devices to a metal refinery, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office.

The three family members from Sacramento, California, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to transport the stolen catalytic converters in return for more than $38m (£31m).

Tou Sue Vang also pleaded guilty to 39 charges related to money laundering, prosecutors said.

A total of 21 people from California and New Jersey have been charged in the case, prosecutors said.

Catalytic converters turn pollutants emitted from a car’s exhaust into less harmful gases.

They can be easily stolen from beneath a vehicle and contain precious metals including platinum.

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“Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold, and their value has been increasing in recent years,” the US attorney’s office said.

“The black market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 (£820) each.”

California accounts for 37% of catalytic converter theft claims across the US, with about 1,600 reported stolen each month, federal prosecutors said.

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