Three Defendants Plead Guilty to a $38 Million Catalytic Converter Theft Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three Sacramento family members pleaded guilty today to charges related to their participation in a nationwide catalytic converter theft conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Brothers Tou Sue Vang, 32, and Andrew Vang, 28, and their mother Monica Moua, 58, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport stolen catalytic converters from California to New Jersey in return for over $38 million in wired payments. Tou Sue Vang also pleaded guilty to an additional 39 charges related to money laundering.
In October and November 2022, federal, state, and local law enforcement partners from across the United States executed a nationwide, coordinated takedown of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for over $600 million dollars. Nine of 21 defendants were charged in the Eastern District of California.
Catalytic converters are part of an exhaust system that reduces toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle’s internal combustion engine. Catalytic converters use precious metals in their center, or “core,” and are regularly targeted for theft due to the high value of these metals, especially the precious metals palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold, and their value has been increasing in recent years. The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute. Last year, approximately 1,600 catalytic converters were reportedly stolen in California each month, and California accounts for 37% of all catalytic converter theft claims nationwide.
According to court documents, the defendants pleading guilty today operated an unlicensed business from their residence in Sacramento where they bought stolen catalytic converters from local thieves and shipped them to DG Auto Parts LLC (DG Auto) in New Jersey for processing. They sold over $38 million in stolen catalytic converters to DG Auto.
Also charged in the 2022 indictment were co-defendants Navin Khanna, aka Lovin Khanna, 40; Tinu Khanna, aka Gagan Khanna, 36; Daniel Dolan, 45; Chi Mo, aka David Mo, 37; Wright Louis Mosley, 50; and Ishu Lakra, 25, all of New Jersey who operated DG Auto in multiple locations in New Jersey. According to court documents, they knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and, through a “de-canning” process, extracted the precious metal powders from the catalytic core. DG Auto sold the precious metal powders it processed from California and elsewhere to a metal refinery for over $600 million. The charges against them are only allegations; they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, the Sacramento Police Department, the Davis Police Department, the Auburn Police Department, the Livermore Police Department, and the San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica M.A. Alegría is prosecuting the case.
Tou Sue Vang, Andrew Vang, and Monica Moua are not yet scheduled to be sentenced. Andrew Vang and Monica Moua each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The 40 counts to which Tou Sue Vang pleaded guilty carry various maximum penalties per count ranging from 20 years in prison to five years in prison, and fines that range from $500,000 to $250,000 per count or twice the gross gain or loss from the crimes. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
Updated October 16, 2023