Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub announced Tuesday afternoon that arrests have been made in an alleged multi-million dollar catalytic converter ring.
Following a nearly yearlong investigation by three dozen law enforcement agencies and the Bucks County 20th Investigating Grand Jury, authorities alleged that more than 27,000 catalytic converters and the precious metals inside were cut off and taken from vehicles throughout the region, including Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. There were reportedly 2,000 catalytic converters stolen from Bucks County.
Authorities said the alleged crooks “specialized” in stealing catalytic converters from vehicles. Thefts took place across Bucks County.
Weintraub said there might be additional thefts that were never reported to police or linked to the defendants.
Joined by regional local, county, state, and federal law enforcement and prosecutors, Weintraub said the probe led to charges against the corporation that owns a Philadelphia tow yard,10 adult individuals, and one juvenile. All but one of the suspects have been captured and come before a district judge.
Most of the suspects were charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, and related offenses, the district attorney’s office said.
Supervising Judge Raymond McHugh oversaw the grand jury and approved the charges that were recommended.
Below is more from the district attorney’s office:
Over the past few years, the theft of catalytic converters has skyrocketed in Bucks County, like most of nation, because of the money they can fetch at scrap yards.
Catalytic converters, pollution mitigation devices attached to the bottom of vehicles, contain rare and precious metals that can be broken down and harvested. The market prices for the three main metals in catalytic converters – rhodium, platinum, and palladium – increased dramatically during the pandemic because of supply chain issues.
Often, catalytic converters can be stolen in about a minute, and sometimes, they are stolen in broad daylight, this investigation found.
From 2020 to 2023, thousands of catalytic converters have been stolen out of Bucks County, costing consumers millions of dollars in damages/repairs. The average cost to repair a stolen catalytic converter is around $2,000.
Because of the prevalence of thefts, law enforcement began to focus not only on individual thieves or “cutters” but also the organizations or businesses purchasing the stolen catalytic converters.
During this investigation, detectives identified TDI Towing at 2335 Wheatsheaf Lane in Philadelphia as the main buyer of catalytic converters stolen in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
At its peak, TDI Towing was paying a minimum of $10,000 a night to thieves coming to the tow yard to sell stolen catalytic converters. On some nights, there would 30 transactions with some thieves showing up more than once. On several occasions, TDI Towing paid $1,000 for a single converter.
While TDI Towing advertised itself as operating during daytime hours, people would arrive all throughout the night to sell catalytic converters. The tow yard was so popular with thieves that in one case, a catalytic converter was sawed off from a stolen vehicle right outside the yard.
Bucks County detectives and assisting law enforcement agencies conducted thousands of hours of surveillance at TDI Towing, conducted controlled sales at the tow yard and used other advanced investigative techniques to identify catalytic converter thieves and those at the tow yard who purchased the stolen goods.
This investigation found that TDI Towing had been in the business of buying catalytic converters for at least three years, and during that time they bought an average of 175 catalytic converters a week, or 27,300 during those three years. TDI employees paid an average of $300 per catalytic converter, for a total of nearly $8.2 million during the three years.
The investigation found that TDI Towing was operated by Michael Williams, 52, of Philadelphia. Most of the organization had some family connection to him.
Employees at the tow yard included his sister-in-law Lisa Davalos, 47, of Philadelphia; Eric Simpson, 41, of Philadelphia; Michael Bruce, 30, of Sewell, N.J.; Kevin Schwartz, 33, of Philadelphia; Patrick Hopkins, 24, of Philadelphia; and a 17-year-old-juvenile.
Every week, and sometimes more than once a week, Williams would take the catalytic converters from TDI Towing for resale and profit at another location, the investigation found. He took about 50 catalytic converters per trip.
The catalytic converter thieves, known as “cutters,” included Michael Evangelist, 35, of Philadelphia; Anthony Davalos Sr., 43, of Philadelphia; Richard Allan Page, 39, of Warminster; and Gary Shirley, 48, of Hatboro.
There are several individuals who have not yet been identified. While this case is being closed by presentment, the investigation will remain ongoing and additional persons may be charged for their involvement in the theft and trafficking of catalytic converters.
TDI Towing was registered with the state as Diversified Towing & Recovery Inc. but was also listed in business documents as TDI Inc. and Tow Decisions.
TDI Towing and its employees were charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, theft by unlawful taking, theft of catalytic converter, theft by receiving stolen property, possession of an instrument of crime, and criminal use of a communication facility.
Williams and TDI Towing are charged with an additional count of corrupt organizations, as they controlled the enterprise.
Simpson, who was a “cutter” when he was not working at the tow yard, was also charged with three additional counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft of catalytic converter, theft by receiving stolen property and one count of fleeing or attempting to elude police. He had several open warrants for catalytic converter thefts in Bucks County and would always flee back to Philadelphia when police attempted to stop him.
Evangelist, Page, and Shirley are charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and possession of an instrument of crime and multiple counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft of catalytic converter and theft by receiving stolen property.
Anthony Davalos was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of criminal conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking, theft of catalytic converter, theft by receiving stolen property, possession of an instrument of crime, fleeing or attempting to elude police, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault.
Anthony Davalos had been wanted after he was convicted of stealing 22 catalytic converters and failing to appear for sentencing. While on the run, he attempted to run down a Lower Southampton detective who tried to stop him from stealing another catalytic converter.
On the afternoon of June 16, 2021, the detective was on routine patrol when he came across a catalytic converter theft in progress at a Street Road shopping center.
The detective observed a man under a vehicle cutting out a converter and a second man behind the wheel of a getaway vehicle. The detective ordered the men to stop, but they drove at him, crashed into a parked vehicle, and fled the scene. If the detective had not moved, he would have been pinned between the two vehicles. Police were later able to identify Davalos as the driver.
Davalos had previously worked at TDI Towing but was let go because Williams wanted to avoid the unwanted attention from law enforcement.
Weintraub told reporters victims not only had to pay to get the catalytic converter fixed or repaired, but it inconvenienced them.
Weintraub said the investigation started with smaller players and eventually led to the top of the ring.
Often, the precious metals are taken from the stolen catalytic converters and then shipped to be melted and used in other products. Sometimes the stolen precious metals are shipped overseas, officials said.
Officials said investigations are ongoing into the thefts and the sale of the catalytic converters.
“We’re striking the first blow here, but I would say, there’s more to come,” Weintraub said, noting other investigation might be in the hands of agencies with larger jurisdictions.
The charges against corporations are rare in Bucks County, but Weintraub said they were important in this case. He added the goal is to shut the towing company down.
The district attorney heralded the work between the many law enforcement agencies.
“As you know, crime knows no borders,” he said.
A Pennsylvania State Police captain said law enforcement will continue to track down criminals who steal catalytic converters. He added that some of these theft incidents have led to violence, which increases the need to crack down on it.
Bucks County Detectives Richard Munger and Timothy Johnson led the probe with assistance from the Bucks County Detectives Drug Strike Force, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and their Detective Bureau, the Attorney General’s Office, Delaware County Detectives, the Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Middletown Township Police Department, Bensalem Township Police Department, Lower Southampton Township Police Department, Warminster Township Police Department, Newtown Township Police Department, Abington Township Police Department, Plymouth Township Police Department, Upper Merion Township Police Department, East Norriton Township Police Department, Lower Gwynedd Police Department, Upper Gwynedd Police Department, Upper Dublin Police Department, Whitpain Township Police Department, FBI Field Offices in Philadelphia, Newark in New Jersey, and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.
Weintraub said analysts from the Bucks County Detectives, Montgomery County Detectives, Mid-Atlantic Great Lake Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN), the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC), the Pennsylvania Crime Information Center (PACIC), and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) helped crack the case.
“They looked through thousands of hours of video,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Edward Furman Jr. and Deputy District Attorney Jovin Jose are assigned to prosecute the case.
Victims of the thefts might be able to get restitution for the crime that impacted them. They were asked to reach out to law enforcement to get more information.
Editor’s Note: All individuals arrested or charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The story was compiled using information from police and public court documents.