4 Minnesota men charged in $21 million catalytic converter theft ring

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Two St. Paulites were among four Minnesota men charged last week with running a multimillion-dollar catalytic converter theft ring.

Justin Tyme Johnson, 32, of St. Paul; Soe Nye Moo, 31, of St. Paul; John Charles Kotten, 41, of Hutchinson; and James Dillon Jensen, 34, of Minneapolis, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines, according to charging documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Johnson and Kotten were also charged with eight counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, one count of money laundering and 10 counts of using the proceeds of unlawful activity in monetary transactions.

Moo was also charged with possessing a machine gun.

All four defendants made their initial appearances Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

Johnson and Kotten, who were the ringleaders of the scheme, acquired catalytic converters directly from thieves or through intermediaries, including Moo and Jensen, according to the indictment.

Johnson and Kotten then sold them to buyers in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Colorado, New York and elsewhere, transporting the stolen goods in U-Hauls and personal vehicles, the indictment said. The proceeds from these sales allegedly netted the conspirators about $21 million.

Thefts of catalytic converters have spiked in recent years, with thieves using power tools to remove them from vehicles and selling the devices for the precious metals inside them.

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