Independence business ower sentenced to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to sell stolen catalytic converters

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An Independence, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court for leading a conspiracy to sell millions of dollars in stolen catalytic converters to companies in Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana.

James Spick, 58, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to five years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Spick to forfeit $4.4 million to the government, representing a conservative estimate that 40 percent of the catalytic converters he bought and sold were stolen.

Spick, the owner of J&J Recycling in Independence, pleaded guilty on July 12, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines.

In his salvage business, Spick primarily buys and resells catalytic converters, as opposed to other automotive parts or recyclable items. Catalytic converters convert toxic gases and pollutants from internal combustion engines into less-toxic pollutants. These converters contain precious metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium. The value of stolen catalytic converters comes from these precious metals, which can be extracted.

For more than four years, Spick made it his primary business to buy and resell stolen catalytic converters, victimizing tens of thousands whose converters were stolen from their vehicles. By paying cash with minimal questioning, Spick’s business model attracted and incentivized thieves, particularly drug addicts.

Spick purchased catalytic converters from hundreds of individuals, paying them in cash. He resold these converters, known to be stolen, to companies in Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana. The Texas and Louisiana companies processed the converters to extract the precious metals.

In January 2021, detectives interviewed a known catalytic converter thief about his dealings with Spick. This thief caught stealing converters from new vehicles at a Kansas dealership, stated that Spick’s business was well-known on the street for buying “questionable” or stolen converters.

Court documents reveal that Spick sometimes spent $20,000 a day buying catalytic converters, profiting approximately $1,000 daily after expenses. Due to his extensive cash transactions, the exact amount of his net profit is unknown.

From 2018 to 2021, a Texas company paid Spick $732,021 and an additional $2,622,846 in cash. During the same period, a Louisiana company paid him $817,271, plus $2,979,074 in cash.

In total, from 2018 to 2021, Spick received over $11 million from companies buying catalytic converters and other car parts.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Mahoney and Nicholas Heberle. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, Lee’s Summit Police Department, and Kansas City Police Department conducted the investigation.

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