Minnesota men indicted in multi-million dollar catalytic converter theft ring

Four Minnesota men have been formally accused of knowingly participating in a multi-million dollar scheme to transport stolen catalytic converters out of the state.

Announced on Tuesday, John Charles Kotten, 41, of Hutchinson, Justin Tyme Johnson, 32, of St. Paul, Soe Nye Moo, 31, of St. Paul, and James Dillon Jensen, 34, of Minneapolis, have been indicted over their part in what authorities believe was a $21 million dollar enterprise from May 2020 through October 2022.

According to court documents, the men collectively purchased the catalytic converters and transported them across state lines to buyers who paid for the stolen parts. 

As part of the plan, authorities say street-level "cutters" stole the catalytic converters from vehicles throughout the state of Minnesota and transferred them to Kotten or Johnson. At times the men bought the converters directly, and other times middlemen purchasers such as Jensen and Moo conducted the purchases as part of the scheme, according to court documents.

Pivotal to a car’s operation, the catalytic converters control CO2 emissions while containing precious metals that can be valuable in the secondary market.

After securing the stolen catalytic converters, the men concealed and stored the inventory in preparation for shipment across state lines – sorting, categorizing, and pricing out the parts. They were then transported using rented U-Haul trailers and personal vehicles.

In an effort to camouflage the scheme from authorities, the men also purchased scrap or junk cars from sellers or at auctions to make it appear as though they were involved in a legitimate automotive scrapping and recycling business, charges allege.

Authorities believe that in total the conspiracy net roughly $21 million in payments, typically in the form of wire transfer, cash or check. Purchasers were located in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New York following an investigation.

Kotten and Johnson are charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and false statements to a financial institution.

Johnson is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Moo is also charged with possession of a machine gun.

FOX 9 previously reported on the decline in stolen catalytic converters from vehicles across Minnesota due to tougher, more restrictive laws passed last session by the Minnesota Legislature, as well as, the federal crackdown on a large, nationwide catalytic converter theft rings.