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Black market thieves targeting this item in Utah vehicles

Posted at 3:46 PM, May 17, 2021

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Black market thieves are targeting catalytic converters at alarming rates along the Wasatch Front.

Investigators with the Utah Attorney General’s Office said reports of stolen catalytic converters have skyrocketed within the last year. The precious metals they contain can fetch up to $400 a piece at a scrapyard.

Catalytic converters may not look like much, but they contain palladium, rhodium platinum, titanium and other precious metals. They’re located under the vehicle and make up part of the exhaust system. They can be stolen in as little as two minutes.

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Since 2019, reports of stolen catalytic converters rose 550 percent in Utah. In just the few months of this year, 350 have been reported.

"It’s been getting out of hand so much that we had to attack the problem,” said Assistant Chief Investigator Nate Mutter with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Three weeks ago, the Utah Attorney General’s office partnered with the Utah Department of Safety and local police departments in a pilot task force targeting the thieves. They want to understand the inner workings of the black market in Utah.

“We are told that no one has tried to attack this problem anywhere, little alone here in the State of Utah. We couldn’t sit back and continue to let those numbers grow. We felt like we needed to do something,” said Mutter.

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FOX 13 News was invited during the undercover sting when investigators served a search warrant on a storage unit in North Salt Lake.

Inside, law enforcement found 124 catalytic converters of various sizes, some even brand new. Investigators accuse Dzenef Beganovic of buying stolen converters and shipping them out of state.

"We believe that was only a drop in the bucket based on what he has turned over,” said Mutter. “He was definitely buying them from all across the Wasatch Front.”

In the first few weeks, two other arrests have been made for possible thefts. More are expected as investigators and law enforcement go after the rampant problem.

Investigators are also doing compliance checks with the scrap metal industry here in Utah to help prevent the resale of stolen catalytic converters.