Springfield man pleads guilty for role in catalytic converter theft ring

A Springfield man involved in a highly organized crime ring that cut catalytic converters from vehicles in three states pleaded guilty to selling as much as $80,000 a week in stolen car parts to scrap dealers.

Jose Torres, 37, admitted to federal charges of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, interstate transportation of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering on May 17 in federal court in Boston, according to a statement from acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

Torres is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6. The interstate transportation charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, while the other two could bring prison sentences of five years each and multiple fines, according to Levy.

Torres, who also goes by the nickname “Goldy Tech,” was arrested with six other Western Massachusetts men on April 12 and charged with multiple offenses connected to the thefts, which took place in 2022 and 2023, Levy said.

Rafael Davila, 35, of Agawam, who was considered the ringleader, was arrested on the same day with his brother, Nicholas Davila, 25, of Springfield. Also charged are Carlos Fonseca, 26; Santo Feliberty, 34; and Alexander Oyola, 37, all of Springfield; and Zachary Marshall, 26, of Holyoke. Their cases are pending.

The six other men are accused of cutting out catalytic converters from at least 471 cars across Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Police believe they were involved with a significant number of additional thefts that have not been identified or were never reported to law enforcement, Levy said.

Law enforcement working together identified a maroon Acura as being used in thefts in multiple communities, which helped them tie the crimes to the same people. Each theft involved at least two suspects wearing black, who targeted residential and commercial vehicles, the statement said.

“The suspects were skilled and able to locate and cut away the catalytic converter from a vehicle within a minute in most instances, using battery operated power-tools, specifically a fast-cutting reciprocating saw,” Levy said. “It is further alleged that Rafael Davila engaged in catalytic converter thefts and burglaries on a full-time basis, committing these multiple nights per week for upwards of eight hours a night.”

Davila is believed to have kept meticulous records that accounted for the sites that the crew targeted. The men are also accused of targeting certain makes and models of cars that had the most valuable converters, Levy said.

Prosecutors say Torres’ role in the ring was to purchase the stolen catalytic converters and then sell them to scrap dealers in the Northeast. He sold between $30,000 and $80,000 in stolen vehicle parts each week, Levy said.

Catalytic converters use precious metals in their core and are targeted for theft because of the high value of these metals — including palladium, platinum and rhodium. Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold, and their value has been increasing in recent years, with black-market prices being more than $1,000 each, the statement said.

More than 70 police agencies in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut assisted in the case through their investigations of individual catalytic converter thefts in their communities.

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