The catalytic converter

The first half of 2019 saw a spike in the number of catalytic converter thefts around Whatcom County.

More than 100 of the vehicle devices have been reported stolen in 2019

WHATCOM ­— A Blaine man was arrested last week in connnection with a spike in the number of automotive catalytic converter thefts in the first half of this year.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office says that on June 18 Shawn Bannon was contacted and admitted to purchasing catalytic convertors he suspected were stolen. He was booked into  county jail on investigation of four counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and five counts of first-degree attempted trafficking in stolen property.

Bannon had been the object of an undercover investigation since March.

This is the account of events given by lieutenant Scott Huso of the WCSO:

In late 2018 and early 2019 Whatcom County experienced a significant increase in automotive catalytic convertor thefts.  More than 100 convertors were reported stolen to local agencies.

A catalytic convertor is an exhaust emission control device located on the underside of an automobile. Victims typically estimate the repair cost at $1,000 to $1,500. The combined thefts resulted in over $100,000 of estimated losses to Whatcom County residents.

One of these thefts was captured on video surveillance. The suspect was identified and contacted. This suspect, who confessed to his involvement in the theft as well as to three other specific thefts, agreed to cooperate with authorities and provide details of the theft operation.

The suspect reported that the stolen catalytic convertors were sold to Bannon of SAB Recycling LLC. Bannon had a “crew of thieves” paid cash according to the type of convertor. Bannon actively managed the crew and warns them to lay low when he felt the thefts were capturing too much attention, the suspect said. The suspect claimed catalytic convertor thefts in Whatcom County would likely stop if Bannon wasn’t buying them.

Starting in March, detectives observed and recorded five catalytic convertor sales between an informant and Bannon. For each sale the informant was provided catalytic convertors and set up with a recording device. The informant made contact with Bannon and arranged a time to meet. During these sales Bannon was recorded telling the informant what types of catalytic convertors were worth the most money, to limit the amount they were stealing and to not do anything else in Whatcom County until things calmed down.

In this operation, the Sheriff’s Office was supported by the Ferndale, Bellingham and Lynden police departments. Investigators identified several local suspects who were selling the stolen catalytic convertors to Shawn Bannon of SAB Recycling LLC.  Bannon paid the thieves in cash and didn’t keep records of the sales as required of a scrap metal recycler.