ASHEBORO — Members of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office were involved in weeks of investigating before announcing arrests that what has been described as a theft ring targeting catalytic converters.
The investigation stretched to multiple counties.
Eventually, charges were filed against James Kennedy Jr., 28; Ricky Shawn Morris, 38; Christopher Allen Bolling, 37; and Christopher Cole Lawson, 35.
Police reported that catalytic converters were taken from a variety of locales. Automobiles owned by some of the victims were simply in parking lots.
“It takes a lot of money to replace those converters,” Randolph County Sheriff Greg Seabolt said. “That’s money a lot of people don’t have. We’re going to continue to work and hopefully this investigation will lead to more.”
Among the locations of the thefts, according to the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, were a parking lot in High Point, a parking lot at Trinity High School and a business in Thomasville. Lawson was located in Alamance County before he was apprehended.
The investigation turned up several methods used in making the thefts, some caught via video surveillance. A U-Haul track was involved in some instances.
Those charged were involved in crawling under greasy automobiles with a tool – and yet others became the victims, Seabolt said. The sheriff said drug use was tied the thefts.
“These guys were druggies,” he said. “They didn’t want to work.”
Morris and a U-Haul were found in Sophia and deputies found methamphetamine, paraphernalia, and burglary tools in the cab, the sheriff’s office reported. Investigators said they found catalytic converters and other tools.
Investigators said they tracked down more catalytic converters along with drugs at a house in High Point.
In total, the foursome faces charges totaling 70 felonies and nine misdemeanors stemming from stolen property, possession of burglary tools and drug activity.
“We made a lot of charges,” Seabolt said. “I think we stopped a huge part of that theft ring up in the northern part of the county.”
While the investigation reached this point, the cases aren’t closed. Seabolt said more charges are possible. Some of the charges filed are related to alleged thefts dating to late February.
State Sen. Dave Craven joined investigators and North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey for the announcement regarding the investigation last week at the Randolph County Emergency Services Building. Craven sponsored a bill that became law in December to increase penalties for stealing converters and for purchasing them.
Catalytic converters contain three metals that make them effective at converting exhaust pollutants into less harmful gasses. Those three metals, platinum, palladium and rhodium, have skyrocketed in value in recent years.