LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas man is accused of buying stolen catalytic converters and selling them to another person in a scheme FBI agents allege involved two businesses and the theft of nearly 100 of the devices, documents said.
The FBI arrested Joseph Sales on charges of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property on Thursday, records showed. Thieves have found the metals inside the auto devices are valuable, police have said as thefts spike.
Agents with the FBI’s Las Vegas office said Sales works for a company that purchases stolen catalytic converters, documents said. The company is not named in the documents and is only referred to as “Company A.”
The FBI also alleges a second company, referred to as “Company B,” also took part in the scheme by “[purchasing] stolen catalytic converters from criminals who have cut them from vehicles,” documents said.
The criminal complaint alleges Sales and another unnamed person have purchased the stolen catalytic converters on behalf of the two companies, FBI agents wrote.
The FBI set up an undercover sale in August 2022 where two sources sold 11 catalytic converts to Sales, documents said. Sales then allegedly paid a person money for the devices.
A second sale that same month involved the sale of 23 catalytic converters to Sales, documents said. Once again, Sales is alleged to have paid an unnamed person money for the devices.
A third sale happened in September 2022 with an unnamed source and Sales at a North Las Vegas business, identified as “Company B,” documents said. The unnamed source sold 14 catalytic converters to Sales during the meeting, agents said.
“[The unnamed source] and Sales discussed how the [unnamed source’s] ‘homies’ had just gotten the catalytic converters from California,” FBI agents said.
A fourth sale occurred at the same business in November 2022, agents said. During the meeting, the undercover source told Sales 32 catalytic converts, agents said.
A fifth sale happened in January, agents said, also at the North Las Vegas business. The undercover source sold 21 catalytic converters to Sales during that time, documents said.
Judge Elayna Youchah released Sales on his own recognizance. Prosecutors did not request Sales to be jailed pending trial, records showed.
Federal authorities do not release booking photos of inmates awaiting trial.
A bill making its way through the Nevada Legislature would strictly define who can buy catalytic converters. Only licensed auto wreckers, licensed scrap metal processors, and licensed motor vehicle manufacturers, distributors, dealers or rebuilders are specifically allowed to buy catalytic converters. Senate Bill 243 contains a provision for other businesses that may reasonably generate, possess or sell used catalytic converters.
Between 2019 and 2022, catalytic converter thefts increased 1,200% in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s area, according to Chris Reis, who represented Metro police in a presentation about Senate Bill 243.
A file photo of catalytic converters is shown as a representation in this article.