EAST ALTON, Ill. – Police say it’s one of the largest crackdowns yet on the St. Louis area’s black market for stolen catalytic converters.
Summit Processors, a scrap metal business in East Alton, Illinois, now has a large sign posted at its gates which reads, “Party over – CLOSED – for retirement.”
The scrapyard was the target of a police sting operation, which resulted in the seizure of all 287 of the catalytic converters on site.
“Yes, it’s very good news,” said Tom Bess, Tom Bess Automotive in south St. Louis.
His auto repair shop now makes custom anti-theft catalytic converter cages.
“(Thieves) cannot get the converters out,” Bess said. “It’s all welded completely to the car.”
At a cost of about $300 each, demand has been steady, considering the cost of replacing stolen converters.
“On the next street over from my shop, a person had this same kind of truck, a Toyota Tundra, they stole both catalytic converters off his. It ended up costing him like $3,200,” Bess said.
Summit Processors routinely bought converters but failed to have sellers fill out paperwork and show photo ID as required by state law, authorities said.
“This all started with one of our uniform guys making a stop and digging a little bit deeper,” said Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells.
A Wood River officer made arrested a suspected converter thief last month. According to court documents, Illinois Secretary of State Police then set up the sting during which the scrapyard bought three converters for a total $445 cash (payments of more than $100 are required to be made by check).
At that rate, the 287 converters seized from the scrapyard would be worth about $42,500, apparently too big of a loss for Summit Processors to stay in business.
“You never want to see a business go out of business but if that business is causing you problems and they’re not following the law and doing the things they should then maybe it’s better if they are closed,” Chief Wells said. “This is good for our area to at least slow this down, potentially maybe stop it for a while. If I was on the opposite side of the law … when I lay my head down on the pillow, I’m going to wonder if I’m next.”
The Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office has now filed for permanent forfeiture of all 287 converters, saying the scrapyard did not buy any of them legally.