Houston task force busts catalytic converter theft ring with $12M in stolen goods, and guns

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Houston authorities apprehended six individuals last week in connection with a crime ring that had nearly $12 million worth of stolen catalytic converters, firearms and a Challenger Hellcat.

The monthslong investigation stemmed from the death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Almendarez, who was shot while trying to stop thieves from stealing his catalytic converter, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

The individuals arrested for their alleged role in the theft ring were Houston residents Jose Martinez, 19; Armando Martinez, 18; Isaac Castillo, 21; Terance Elder, 20, Armando Martinez Sr., 39, and Dayton resident Jose Sanchez, 21. 

Police say the culprits promoted their alleged catalytic converter enterprise online by advertising parts of the vehicles that had been stolen. 

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Martinez Sr. is charged with engaging in organized crime and was released on bond before being taken back into custody on two charges with a $75,000 bond on each charge, KHOU 11 reported.  

Martinez Jr. is charged with aggregate theft and two counts for organized crime. His bond was set at $200,000. Jose Martinez is charged with engaging in criminal activity. His bond was also set at $200,000. 

Elder is charged with engaging in criminal activity, and his bond was set at $35,000. Castillo and Sanchez remain in custody, but additional details weren’t available. 

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Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise in recent months, particularly in the Houston area, amid the highest demand for cars and replacement parts in years.