A four-month extensive EPS investigation has culminated with multiple charges being laid against a 24-year-old Edmonton man in connection to a major theft ring that generated hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from the theft and sale of catalytic converters stolen from vehicles across the city.
In March 2020, investigators initially became aware of a covert operation involving multiple individuals cutting off catalytic converters from vehicles and selling them to a primary suspect, 24-year-old Tekie Awte.
Throughout the investigation, Awte was observed conducting numerous transactions with individuals in back alleys and parking lots across the city. In most instances, the individuals were observed placing catalytic converters and/or duffle bags suspected of containing catalytic converters into the back of trucks being driven by Awte.
Subsequent investigations led investigators to what appeared to be a “stash pad”, a storage locker in northeast Edmonton, where Awte was allegedly storing the converters, prior to selling them to a recycler(s).
On Friday, June 11, 2020, at approximately 2:30 p.m., investigators observed the accused loading up a large trailer at the storage locker, before travelling west on the Yellowhead. EPS members intercepted Awte, taking him into custody on Highway 16 near Spruce Grove.
Investigators subsequently executed a search warrant for the rental trailer where they discovered 462 catalytic converters with an estimated recycling value of more than $300,000.
“Our members showed exemplary commitment to maintaining surveillance, arresting and charging this individual,” said EPS Staff Sgt Steven Chwok. “The investigating members are well aware of the financial burden citizens have experienced replacing these converters on their vehicles,” said Chwok, noting the victimization cost (based on an average CC replacement cost of $2,000) is approximately $900,000.
“This individual was preying on people who have been struggling to stay afloat financially right now, many of whom have been laid off or out of work as a result of COVID-19. We hope this sends a strong message to others in our community, who might conduct themselves in a similar way.”
Tekie Awte, 24, of Edmonton, has been charged with trafficking stolen property, possession of stolen property for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime (proceeds of crime) and money laundering.
More than 1,000 catalytic converter thefts have been reported to EPS since October 2019.