5 arrested, $4.3 million dollars worth of catalytic converter seized in coordinated raid

Thursday, August 25, 2022
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A catalytic converter ring bust was underway in Pearland and Fresno on Wednesday morning, where 17 pallets were moved at home.

PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Five people were arrested in a catalytic converter ring bust Wednesday morning that extended into Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Harris counties.

Eyewitness News was the first crew at the scene as authorities arrived.

Investigators loaded up somewhere around 17 heavy pallets of catalytic converters and 50 buckets of the kinds of valuable precious metals commonly found inside these converters.

Wednesday evening, they confirm seizing roughly 1,450 converters and oxygen sensors, worth a total of about $4.3 million, stolen from Houston and Brazoria County.

According to a source, police also took at least $840,000, five vehicles, and a forklift.

Detectives say their investigation started earlier this year and has expanded as an organized theft ring has emerged.

Police raided three homes and three businesses, including a busy alterations shop in Pearland.

On Wednesday, dozens of customers showed up at the business, hoping to pick up their items.

"We had one of our customers saying that her kids' uniforms are in there and she needs them for tomorrow," Kristen Walger, who works nearby, said. "We also have another person that said her bridesmaid's dress is in there, and she needs it for this weekend."

Pearland police arrested five people: Henri Pham, Le Quoc, Timothy Ngo, Tram Le, and Tran Le.

They're between 39 and 59 years old, and, according to neighbors, they are active in their community, even donating time and money to nonprofits.

"I had not a clue. Not a clue. Everyone was always so nice and welcoming, so this is all a shock to me," Walger added.

The operation comes after months of catalytic converter thefts across Houston and the surrounding areas.

In some cases, the thefts have turned deadly.

In July, six people were arrested in connection to a theft ring believed to have been linked to the March 2022 death of Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez.

A month before the arrests, a new ordinance in Houston went into effect to crack down on catalytic converter thefts and resale.

The ordinance was unanimously approved back in May.

As part of the law, people will now need to show proof of owning a cut catalytic converter when they go to sell it to a metal recycler.