Multiple Arrests Made in Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

Published on December 18, 2023

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Multiple Arrests Made in Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

(December 15, 2023)–The Weld County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announce several arrests were made in a multi-state operation in an effort to address the issue of catalytic converter thefts across the state and nation.

On December 13, 2023, six suspects were taken into custody. The arrests were made during a warrant sweep in Colorado (Brighton, Commerce City and Parker) and Nevada (Las Vegas area) and are part of a Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) investigation.

Julian BAROS (DOB: 05/22/1992), Brighton (Bond set at $700,000 - cash only)
Nicholas HANDLEY (DOB:10/15/1998), Commerce City (Bond set at $500,000 - cash only) Devin GARCIA (DOB:03/04/1983), Parker (Bond set at $500,000 - cash only)
Herman MEDINA (DOB:05/12/1988), Las Vegas, Nevada
Aaron READER (DOB:11/18/2001), Las Vegas area
Patrick SANTOYO (DOB: 12/01/1980), Las Vegas, Nevada

Multiple arrests made in catalytic converter theft ring. Mugshots of Herman Medina, Julian Baros, Devin Garcia, Nicholas Handley, Aaron Reader, and Patrick Santoyo.

All suspects are alleged to have violated the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, Theft, Money Laundering, and Violations of Colorado Tax Laws. 

Those being held in Nevada (Santoyo, Medina, and Reader) will be extradited to Colorado.

This investigation began in 2021 in Weld County due to an increase in crime involving catalytic converters. The Weld County Sheriff's Office strike team started an investigation in relation to stolen vehicles and stolen catalytic converters. This investigation led members of the strike team to a business named Elevation Auto Core. In 2022, the Weld County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the CBI and HSI and the original investigation elevated to a state and federal investigation where agents and detectives identified an illegal, large-scale operation where individuals allegedly acquired and redistributed thousands of stolen catalytic converters. Alleged tax evasion and money laundering are also part of this comprehensive investigation. 

Catalytic converters help filter out harmful air pollutants from the car's exhaust system. One method used by thieves to steal them is by sawing through the exhaust pipe underneath the car, and then selling the device to a scrap metal dealer. Small amounts of precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium can be extracted from the emissions control devices. Some of these precious metals are more valuable than gold; thus, thieves can turn a quick profit on stolen catalytic converters due to the rising market value of these precious metals when they sell them to scrap metal dealers.

“This has been a long-term case, but getting justice for the victims who have been financially affected by this group means making a major impact on their criminal operations. Bringing this case to a positive resolution for the victims has been at the forefront for everyone involved, and I am grateful for their efforts and time they have put into this case,” Weld County Sheriff, Steve Reams.

“Today’s arrests wouldn’t be possible without the extensive coordination and collaboration with our public safety and other partners in Colorado and across state lines to address this complex and far-reaching operation,” said CBI Director Chris Schaefer. “This investigation shows that this crime knows no boundaries, and we must all continue to work together to reduce the impact of the theft of catalytic converters.”

“Catalytic converter theft is an extremely costly economic crime.  The involved criminal groups are highly sophisticated, and the laundered profits earned from these thefts contribute to the broader activities of organized crime,” said HSI Deputy Special Agent in Charge Jeff Brannigan. “I applaud our agents and the state and local partners with whom we closely work for their efforts to shut down this criminal enterprise.”

In addition to the WCSO Strike Team Members, CBI and HSI also received support from the Colorado Department of Revenue, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Brighton Police Department, Commerce City Police Department, Parker Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in this comprehensive investigation.

Because this is an active investigation, no further information is available at this time.  

All individuals are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.