HOUSTON — Investigators seized 477 catalytic converters in an early morning raid Thursday. Seven locations throughout the Houston area, including a warehouse, were hit.
KHOU 11 reporter Anayeli Ruiz worked with her law enforcement sources and got an exclusive inside look at the months-long investigation that stemmed from the death of Deputy Darren Almendarez, who was shot while trying to stop thieves from taking his catalytic converter. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation was personal.
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Investigators said the hundreds of thefts were part of something bigger.
“It’s part of a big organized crime,” HCSO Sergeant Jeff Thomas said. “We do have some cutters, maybe some of the top people of the organization today.”
In total, six people were arrested, including one who was arrested in Oklahoma.
Those arrested have been identified by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement as Jose Martinez, 19; Armando Martinez, 18; Isaac Castillo, 21; Terance Elder, 20; and Armando Martinez Sr., 39; all of Houston, and Jose Sanchez, 21-year-old of Dayton, Texas.
7/31 editor's note: Jose Sanchez is no longer in jail and has no charges related to the incident. Therefore, video of his arrest has been removed from this article.
A home on Lila Street in 5th Ward was just one of the seven locations where the crooks were storing the catalytic converters, officials said. Other locations included a home on Buffington Street, a house in Dayton, Texas and a warehouse on Shoreham Street.
In video only Ruiz has, investigators could be seen tossing catalytic converters from the window of one of the homes. Thomas said some of the catalytic converts were stolen from as far as Galveston, College Station, Conroe and Huntsville, Texas.
Investigators said not only the 477 catalytic converters were recovered but also 2,800 oxygen sensors. Investigators also confiscated 29 firearms, 1 Glock switch and 1 stolen Hellcat.
Nearly 400 catalytic converters were found at just one of the locations. The stolen goods are worth more than a million dollars on the street, officials said. The cost for the victims is high, he said.
“It’s very costly if you get your catalytic converter stolen,” Thomas said. “The main target is the Toyota Tundra. You are looking at $1,800 to $3,000 to get them replaced.”
While more than $1 million in catalytic converters were found, investigators believe the ring is responsible for more than $11.6 million in total damages.
Investigators said they hope with Thursday’s arrest they’re able to make a change and stop some of the thefts going on in the area. They said they are not going to stop with this bust that involved the Harris County Sherriff’s office, Office of Homeland Security, DPS and HPD and the use of choppers and robots.