HOUSTON,Texas (KTRK) -- A total of six individuals were arrested for their roles in a sizeable catalytic converter theft ring allegedly linked to the March 2022 death of Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez, according to authorities.
The video above is from a previous report.
On Thursday, the Homeland Security Investigations, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety executed six federal search warrants at five Houston-area residences and one storage facility.
Jose Martinez, 19; Armando Martinez, 18; Isaac Castillo, 21; Terance Elder, 20; Armando Martinez Sr., 39, and Jose Sanches, 21, were arrested for their alleged roles in the large-scale ring. Investigators believe they were dealing stolen converters for three suspects charged with murdering 23- year veteran Deputy Almendarez.
Deputy Almendarez was shot and killed on March 31 after confronting three suspects outside of Joe V's Smart Shop as he and his wife walked back to their car. Two suspects were underneath his vehicle, attempting to try and steal the catalytic converter. As Almendarez approached, one of the suspects fired a weapon hitting the deputy multiple times. Almendarez was able to shoot back, striking two of the suspects before they fled from the scene.
The deputy was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Frederick Tardy, 17; 23-year-old Joshua Stewart; and 19-year-old Fredarius Henry Clark have been charged with capital murder.
According to those close to the investigation, this ring is allegedly responsible for more than $11 million in catalytic converter thefts. The stolen converters would be bought and advertised on Instagram, then shipped out of state.
"For far too long, violent criminal networks and organized theft rings like this have bred chaos and terror in our communities," HSI Houston Special Agent Mark Dawson said. "Together with our fellow law enforcement partners, HSI Houston is committed to bringing every resource to bear to pursue these dangerous criminal elements vigorously and will not rest until we can restore peace and order for the hard-working and law-abiding residents of Houston."
"Our community has been increasingly plagued by these types of crimes," HCSO Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. "I am thankful for all efforts made to arrest these dangerous individuals. This operation would not have been a success without the strong collaboration of several agencies within our region."
The investigation into the ring previously resulted in the arrest of an additional person and over $484,000 seized in bulk currency, a firearm, and narcotics.
Organized theft groups frequently target catalytic converters for the precious metals that they contain such as palladium, platinum and rhodium. The precious metals are valuable, and a worldwide supply shortage has increased demand for them, further driving their value.