Catalytic converters remain a hot target for thieves after a man was arrested near Mahtowa trying to use a power saw to cut one from a vehicle.
Shayne Jason Thompson, 44, of Cloquet, was arrested and charged with three felonies, including first-degree damage to property, possession of burglary or theft tools and theft of property.
On July 16, a rural Carlton County woman contacted the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office after she saw a man at her residence attempting to do something to the vehicles at her home, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman confronted the man, later identified as Thompson, and he left in a black SUV, but not before the woman took a photo of him and the vehicle. The photos also showed Thompson carrying a DEWALT power saw.
When CCSO Deputy Justin Jokinen arrived on the scene, the complaint said he recognized Thompson from previous encounters.
While at the woman’s home, Jokinen found the catalytic converters had been cut out of a Buick and a Jeep on the property. It also appeared Thompson attempted to cut a third catalytic converter out of a Pontiac on the property but was unsuccessful, the complaint said.
Authorities made contact with Thompson and found the missing catalytic converters in his vehicle, according to the criminal complaint. They also found a saw that appeared to be the same one in the photo taken at the woman’s residence. Thompson admitted to officers that he cut the catalytic converters from the vehicles, the complaint said.
CCSO Lieutenant Dan Danielson said the precious metals — like platinum, palladium and rhodium — make catalytic converters targets for thieves looking for an easy score. Their thefts typically rise and fall with the value of those materials at scrap metal recyclers.
“This particular wave of issues with catalytic converters isn’t a real common one, but what we do see ... is as certain metals people that are involved in these types of crimes will generally switch to that,” Danielson said. “If copper is really valuable, we’ll see a lot of copper thefts.”
Early last year there was a rash of catalytic converter thefts at the Scanlon Park and Ride, when residents left a vehicle for several days. In addition, the catalytic converters were stolen from two Carlton County Disabled American vehicles parked at shopping centers in Cloquet.
“I don’t know exactly what the price of all those precious metals are, but it must be worth their time, because it sounds like it’s a statewide issue,” Danielson said. “I’m hearing it in other communities and then certainly we’re having them.”
On the scrap metal market, a single catalytic converter can bring anywhere between $50 and $200 and those from some luxury vehicles can bring as much as $500, Danielson said.
“Generally, it’s the thieves that are doing this to support something else in their life,” Danielson said. “If it’s a drug habit they can’t afford otherwise or whatever, this is a mechanism for quick cash. They’re not putting it into their 401(k).”
The damage done to the victim’s vehicles, however, far exceeds the amount of money thieves might receive from a scrap metal dealer. A local repair shop estimated the cost to replace the catalytic converters in the Carlton County woman's cars at more than $1,500, according to the criminal complaint.
If convicted, Thompson faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine or both for each of the damage to property and theft charges and up to three years and a $5,000 fine for possession of burglary or theft tools.