EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A Metro East scrap-metal dealer is accused of owning nearly 300 catalytic converters without keeping proper records.

Prosecutors have issued a forfeiture case against John T. Freely, 42, of Belleville. Police look to seize 287 catalytic converters from Freely. Investigators say none of the catalytic converters were obtained legally.

In September, an undercover investigator from the Illinois Secretary of State, acting on
information from Wood River Police, sold three catalytic converters to an employee from the Summit Processors business. According to court documents, “the employee of the business failed to require proof of ownership for the parts, failed to photograph the sellers, and paid cash for the parts,” Illinois State Law requires people to purchase catalytic converters through check when the purchase exceeds $100.

Illinois State Police followed up by issuing a warrant, finding hundreds of more catalytic converters. It was then determined none of those items were purchased in accordance with state statutes. Through a forfeiture case, police are looking to take control of all 287 catalytic converters tied with Freely.

“The theft of catalytic converters is a plague on our region and our state,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas A. Haine. “This forfeiture action is part of a continued effort by my office and by police to dry up the sources of revenue for such thieves. We will continue to crack down on the demand for such parts by working to ensure the sales of often-stolen vehicle parts like catalytic converters are conducted in accordance with Illinois statutes.”

A patrol officer from the Wood River Police Department is credited for preliminary information leading to catalytic converters. The cost for replacing a catalytic converter can reach up to $3,000 for a car owner, depending on the vehicle.

Prosecutors have issued two misdemeanor charges against Freely. Illinois state law only allows a felony to be charged only for a second offense involving illegal actions with scrap vehicle parts. Freely will appear in court on his charges on Oct. 26.