A Springfield man pleaded guilty to his role in an organized theft crew that allegedly stole catalytic converters, valued at over $2 million, from over 490 vehicles across Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office said.
Zachary Marshall, 25, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston “to conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce and interstate transportation of stolen property,” Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy’s office said in a statement released Tuesday.
His sentencing is set for Feb. 7, 2024.
Marshall was a member of a group of men from Western Massachusetts that allegedly stole catalytic converters from at least 492 vehicles across Massachusetts and New Hampshire during 2022 and 2023, Levy’s office said. The group also stole converters from ATMs and jewelry stores, the statement said.
The converters were sold to Jose Torres, who would then allegedly sell them to scrap dealers in the Northeast, making a profit of about $30,000 to $80,000 a week, prosecutors said.
A “significant number” of additional thefts may not have been identified or reported to law enforcement, the statement said.
In April, Marshall and six other men from were arrested on charges related to the theft, transportation, and sale of stolen catalytic converters, the statement said. Also arrested were Rafael Davila, 35, of Feeding Hills; Torres, 37, of Springfield; Nicolas Davila, 25, of Springfield; Jose Fonseca, 26, of Springfield; Santo Feliberty, 34, of Springfield; and Alexander Oyola, 37, of Springfield.
Several of the men, including Torres, Oyola, Davila, and Feliberty all pleaded guilty earlier this year, prosecutors said. Davila and Fonseca’s charges remain pending.
Some scrap dealers have been federally charged with interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering in the District of Connecticut, the Eastern District of California, and Northern District of Oklahoma, Levy’s office said.
Prosecutors said the theft group was able to locate and remove a catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute by using battery operated power-tools and car jacks. It’s reported that one night, the group stole from 26 vehicles, Levy’s office said.
Marshall played a role in stealing catalytic converters from 107 vehicles over the course of 10 separate instances between Jan. 19, 2023 and April 6, 2023, prosecutors said.
He also admitted to breaking into a self-storage facility in Northborough on Feb. 2, 2023, with Davila, the alleged leader of the group, the statement said. Both men stole a truck with about $13,000 worth of Milwaukee brand power tools and stole items from storage units.
The break-in resulted in a car chase from law enforcement, Levy’s office said. Some of the Milwaukee tools were later found when authorities searched Davila’s storage unit in April.
Davila “engaged in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis,” the statement said. He was allegedly responsible for planning each theft, including using his vehicle for transportation, determining the value of stolen converters, purchasing materials, and keeping notes accounting details of each theft.
Prosecutors said that catalytic converter theft is a nationwide problem because of the “high-valued precious metals they contain.” A vehicle cannot mechanically and legally be operated without a converter.
In May, Torres pleaded guilty to his role catalytic converter theft and will be sentenced on Dec. 14, Levy’s office said.
Oyola also pleaded guilty to ATM and jewelry store burglaries in May, the statement said. He will be sentenced at a later date. Both Davila, who will be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2024, and Feliberty, to be sentenced Jan. 31, 2024, pleaded guilty to roles in the theft conspiracy, the statement said.