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Press Release

Independence Business Owner Sentenced for Multi-Million Dollar Conspiracy to Sell Stolen Catalytic Converters

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
Must Forfeit $4.4 Million From Sales of Stolen Catalytic Converters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An Independence, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for leading a conspiracy to sell millions of dollars in stolen catalytic converters to companies in Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana.

James Spick, 58, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to five years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Spick to forfeit to the government $4.4 million, which represents a conservative estimate that 40 percent of the catalytic converters he bought and sold were stolen.

Spick, the owner of J&J Recycling in Independence, pleaded guilty on July 12, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines.

In his salvage business, Spick primarily buys and resells catalytic converters rather than other automotive parts or recyclable items. Catalytic converters convert toxic gases and pollutants from internal combustion engines into less-toxic pollutants. Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Stolen catalytic converters have value because of the precious metals, which can be extracted from the converters.

For more than four years, Spick made it his primary business to buy and resell stolen catalytic converters. In doing so, he victimized tens of thousands of people whose catalytic converters were stolen from their vehicles. By paying in cash with basically no questions asked, Spick’s entire business model attracted, encouraged, and incentivized thieves and particularly drug addicts.

Spick bought catalytic converters at his business from hundreds of individuals whom he paid in cash. Spick resold the catalytic converters, which he knew to have been stolen, to companies in Missouri (including Kansas City and Lee’s Summit), Texas, and Louisiana. The Texas and Louisiana companies processed the catalytic converters to extract the precious metals.

In January 2021, detectives interviewed a known catalytic converter thief regarding his dealings with Spick. This thief had been caught stealing converters from new vehicles at a car dealership in Kansas. The thief stated that it was common knowledge on the street that Spick’s business was the place to go to sell “questionable” or stolen catalytic converters.

According to court documents, Spick told investigators he sometimes spent $20,000 a day buying catalytic converters and profited about $1,000 a day after expenses. Because he dealt so much in cash, it’s not possible to know the amount of his net profit.

Spick was paid partially in cash by the companies buying catalytic converters. From 2018 to 2021, a Texas company paid Spick $732,021 and an additional $2,622,846 in cash. From 2018 to 2021, a Louisiana company, paid Spick $817,271 and an additional $2,979,074 in cash.

In total from 2018 to 2021, Spick received more than $11 million from companies buying catalytic converters and other car parts.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Mahoney and Nicholas Heberle. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Lee’s Summit, Mo., Police Department, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.

Updated January 17, 2024