PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A catalytic converter trafficking ring involving multiple states has resulted in more than a dozen people being indicted in late July, the Beaverton Police Department announced Thursday.
During a press conference on Thursday, while authorities did not detail what went into the investigation, Matt Henderson of the Beaverton Police Department said they have not captured all suspects.
Henderson explained difficulties investigating the case, especially as there’s no way to track catalytic convertors.
“You see folks laying underneath a vehicle and they could be in and out 30 seconds to two minutes, like a NASCAR pit crew. And then once it’s out from that vehicle, we don’t have a way to track it,” Henderson said.
Brennan Doyle and Tanner Hellbusch were among the 14 individuals charged with racketeering, aggravated theft and money laundering.
The investigation came to a close last week after a yearlong investigation that BPD says was launched in late 2021 when detectives learned Hellsbusch was running an illegal operation.
On March 1, 2022, police say they found more than 100 catalytic converters in Hellbusch’s vehicle during a traffic stop. During Thursday’s press conference, Beaverton police said the catalytic convertors found in the car were worth a street value of over $80,000.
Around that time, detectives also confirmed Doyle was the ring leader and suspected he had trafficked over 44,000 catalytic converters since January 2021. Officials say that number of catalytic converters is worth about $22 million.
Detectives spent the next five months gathering evidence to prove that Hellbusch, Doyle and several others efforted these thefts stretching along the west coast. Many of the thefts occurred in Washington County but spanned across six Oregon counties along with parts of Washington, Nevada, California, Texas and New York.
The investigation resulted in the recovery of more than 3,000 catalytic converters, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a luxury vehicle and jewelry during the search of eight separate locations, including a Lake Oswego property, according to BPD.
“They were renting a summer lake house. I think it’s important to note the defendants in this case were living a nice life and they were doing so because they were stealing catalytic converters from people,” Henderson said.
Both Doyle and Hellbusch are expected back in court Thursday morning.
Officials say the increased price of rhodium, platinum and palladium during this time made “each catalytic converter a profitable haul.”
Henderson said the police department has seen a correlation between the price of metals increasing along with catalytic convertor thefts. He pointed out the department has seen an increasing amount of these thefts since 2019.
“Our detectives saw information and saw the increase in the number of thefts related to catalytic convertors. It was going to take some law enforcement agency to put their foot down and say ‘We’re done. We’re done with this, we’re done trying to track down the onesie, twosies of these catalytic convertors being stolen.’ At some point we’ve got to work our way to the top and take off a part of an organization or an organization in its entirety,” Henderson said.
During the press conference, Stacy Jepson of BPD thanked the community for their patience during the investigation.
“I know it’s been frustrating to see this type of criminal activity continually happen with seemingly no end in sight. And we understand the financial burden and inconveniences put on everyone who has been a victim of this criminal organization. Your patience has allowed us to take this organization down from the top instead of just scratching the surface level,” Jepson said.
Watch the full press conference below.
As five of the 14 people accused of participating in the theft ring appeared in court in Washington County on Thursday, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton noted the impact of the alleged crimes.
“Quality of life crimes have a direct impact on the livability in our community. They often disproportionately and negatively impact the financially vulnerable and historically marginalized as they strain resources of both small businesses and families alike,” Barton said.
This sentiment was echoed by neighbors who live next door to Doyle’s rented Lake Oswego home.
“Crime is going to happen wherever you go, but the fact that it was so close and the fact that they actually took food out of people’s mouth’s by what they were doing is the part that bothers me,” neighbor Jason Frankel said.
Neighbor, Roxanne Mike, told KOIN 6 News “it’s not surprising because we get the Ring Doorbell notifications that catalytic converters are being stolen but it’s interesting that it is so close to home.”
Since police confirmed the suspects have been released from police custody, KOIN 6 News asked Frankel how he felt knowing the alleged ringleader was back next door. While he said he has faith in the justice system he added “taking advantage of people like that, they’ll get what they earned.”
KOIN 6 News’ Joelle Jones contributed to this report.