Member of Catalytic Converter Theft Crew Pleads Guilty
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Theft crew allegedly responsible for an estimated $2 million in losses across Massachusetts and New Hampshire during 2022 and 2023
BOSTON – A Springfield man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston to his role in a regional organized theft crew that stole catalytic converters from over 490 vehicles. It is alleged that the crew stole from ATMs and jewelry stores.
Santo Feliberty, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce; two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property; conspiracy to commit bank theft; bank theft; and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The firearm charge arises from a pistol and ammunition found during the search of Feliberty’s residence as part of the catalytic converter theft investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin scheduled sentencing for Jan. 31, 2024
Feliberty and six other men were arrested on April 12, 2023, and charged with offenses related to the theft, transportation and sale of stolen catalytic converters taken from over 490 vehicles during 2022 and 2023.
Catalytic converter theft has become a nationwide problem across a multitude of state, local, and federal jurisdictions due to the high-valued precious metals they contain – some of which are more valuable than gold, with black-market prices being more than $1,000 each in recent years. The theft of a vehicle’s catalytic converter results in damage that renders the vehicle inoperable – both mechanically and legally under EPA regulations – until properly replaced.
Feliberty was a member of an organized crew that stole catalytic converters from at least 492 vehicles across Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 2022 and 2023 alone. It is believed that a significant number of additional thefts have not been identified or were not ever reported to law enforcement, however. According to court documents, the crew was skilled and able to locate and cut away the catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute in most instances – often utilizing battery operated power-tools, car jacks. It is alleged that, on numerous occasions, the defendants targeted more than 10 vehicles in a single night, with one night reporting thefts from 26 vehicles.
It is alleged that the crew was led by Rafael Davila, who engaged in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis – committing thefts multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night. Rafael Davila was allegedly responsible for the planning of and transportation to each targeted theft – using his vehicle, determining price values for stolen converters and purchasing needed materials. It is further alleged that he maintained meticulous notes accounting for the locations that he and his co-conspirators had targeted and the number of catalytic converters that had been stolen, including the makes and models and when they were dropped off.
During the plea hearing, Feliberty admitted to participating in thefts of catalytic converters from 52 vehicles across eight cities and towns in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Once in possession of the stolen catalytic converters, the crew would then sell them to Jose Torres, who would accumulate stolen catalytic converters from multiple theft crews and then in turn sell them to scrap dealers in the Northeast – transacting approximately $30,000 to $80,000 in stolen catalytic converters per week. Torres then sold stolen catalytic converters to scrap dealers who have since been charged federally for interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering in the District of Connecticut, the Eastern District of California and Northern District of Oklahoma.
In addition to the catalytic converter thefts, Feliberty pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal from ATMs of federally insured banks in Massachusetts on three separate occasions in December 2022. It is alleged that this conspiracy involved the use of stolen trucks to rip the ATMs from the ground and gain access to the vault.
Feliberty also admitted to committing burglaries of two New Hampshire jewelry stores on Jan. 12, 2023, and the theft of a trailer on Dec. 14, 2022. The combined total value of the jewelry stolen during the burglaries was determined to be over $137,000, with each store facing approximately $10,000 in costs to repair the resulting damage.
Additionally, a firearm and ammunition were found at Feliberty’s residence. Feliberty is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition due to prior felony convictions.
On May 17, 2023, Torres pleaded guilty to his role in the catalytic converter theft conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14, 2023. On May 24, 2023, Oyola pleaded guilty to the ATM and jewelry store burglaries and will be sentenced at a later date. On March 13, 2023, Nicolas Davila pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on January 9, 2024. Charges against Rafael Davila, Carlos Fonseca and Zachary Marshall are pending and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The charge of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of interstate transportation of stolen property each provide for a sentence of up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to commit bank theft provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of bank theft provides for a sentence of up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition provides for up to 10 years, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy; Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; John E. Mawn Jr., Interim Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police; and Kevin Gallagher, Director of Operations for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Northeast Region made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was also provided by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Connecticut, the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Eastern District of California; Homeland Security Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; and the New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN). Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime & Gang Unit is prosecuting the case.
Over 70 local police departments in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut contributed to this investigation through the submission of their investigations of catalytic converter thefts in their jurisdiction. The Massachusetts police departments contributing to the investigation were Abington, Acton, Andover, Auburn, Bedford, Bellingham, Beverly, Billerica, Burlington, Bridgewater, Canton, Carver, Chelmsford, Concord, Cranston, East Hampton, Easton, Fitchburg, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Hampton, Hanover, Haverhill, Hingham, Holliston, Holyoke, Hudson, Ipswich, Lawrence, Leominster, Lynn, Malden, Mansfield, Medford, Marlborough, Methuen, Middleton, Milford, Millbury, Needham, Newton, Northborough, Norwell, Norwood, Peabody, Pembroke, Plymouth, Randolph, Rockland, Sharon, Shrewsbury, Springfield, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Tyngsborough, Walpole, Waltham, Watertown, West Bridgewater, Weymouth, Wilmington, Woburn and Worcester. The Bow, Concord, Derry, Hooksett, Hudson, Londonderry, Manchester, Salem and Windham New Hampshire police departments also contributed. The South Windsor and Windsor Connecticut Police Departments also contributed to the investigation.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Updated October 20, 2023