SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WPRI) — Seven men were arrested Wednesday in connection with the thefts of hundreds of catalytic converters across Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
U.S. District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the men worked with the skill and speed of a “NASCAR pit crew” to strip cars of their catalytic converters under the cloak of darkness.
Rollins estimates that the men stole more than 470 catalytic converters over the course of a year, resulting in roughly $2 million in losses.
The suspects targeted as many as 10 vehicles per night, according to Rollins. There was one night, she said, that there were at least 26 thefts reported.
Investigators believe the men are responsible for a “significant number” of catalytic converter thefts that went unreported.
Detectives honed in on the ringleader, identified as 35-year-old Rafael Davila, shortly after officers in several communities noticed the same maroon Acura was involved in the thefts.
That vehicle was traced back to Davila, also known as “Robin Hood,” who Rollins said planned and kept notes on each theft.
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Rollins said that, once the catalytic converters were stolen, 37-year-old Jose Torres would sell them to scrap dealers throughout the Northeast.
Torres, also known as “Goldy” or “Goldy Tech,” made between $30,000 and $80,000 per week selling thousands of catalytic converters to dealers in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, according to Rollins.
Davila, Torres and the five other suspects, identified as Nicholas Davila, Carlos Fonseca, Zachary Marshall, Santo Feliberty and Alexander Oyoloa, are facing a slew of charges, including interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering conspiracy.
Rollins said the communities hit the hardest by the men included Woburn (49 thefts), Wilmington (37 thefts) and Millbury (32 thefts).
Catalytic converters, which are an important component of a vehicle’s exhaust system, are easy to steal yet costly to repair. Rollins estimated that, since they contain precious metals, catalytic converters can be sold on the black market for more than $1,000 each.
Catalytic converter thefts render vehicles inoperable until the component is properly replaced, which can cost thousands of dollars.
In addition, Rollins said Rafael Davila, Feliberty and Oyola are also accused of stealing cash from at least three bank ATMs in Massachusetts and burglarizing two New Hampshire jewelry stores.