4 Minnesota men indicted in $21M catalytic converter scheme

Four Minnesota men have been indicted for stealing and selling $21 million of stolen catalytic converters, said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.

Court documents say during the 29 months from May 2020 through October 2022, John Charles Kotten, 41, of Hutchinson, Justin Tyme Johnson, 32, of St. Paul, Soe Nye Moo, 31, of St. Paul, and James Dillon Jensen, 34, of Minneapolis, and others acquired stolen catalytic converters and transported them across state lines to buyers.

Catalytic converters are emission control devices that contain valuable, precious metals -including palladium, platinum, and rhodium - to reduce the toxic gas and pollutants from a vehicle’s engine and filter them into safer emissions.

As part of the conspiracy, individuals who operated as street-level cutters allegedly stole catalytic converters from vehicles throughout Minnesota and transferred them to Kotten or Johnson.

Kotten and Johnson allegedly met with cutters directly to buy stolen catalytic converters, and sometimes they instructed cutters to transfer the catalytic converters to intermediary buyers acting on their behalf, such as Jensen and Moo.

After receiving stolen catalytic converters, the defendants allegedly concealed and stored the inventory in preparation for shipment across state lines. After sorting, categorizing, and pricing out the anticipated loads, the defendants allegedly transported the stolen catalytic converters across state lines using rented U-Haul trailers and personal vehicles. Payments for the stolen catalytic converters were typically in the form of wire transfers, cash, checks, or a combination thereof, the indictment said.

Kotten and others bought scrap or junk cars from individual sellers or at auction to make it appear like they ran a legitimate automotive scrapping and recycling business in case they were audited or investigated, according to the indictment.

The defendants allegedly sold the parts to a small number of high-volume buyers based in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New York.

The indictment charges Kotten, Johnson, Moo, and Jensen with conspiracy to transport stolen property interstate.

Kotten and Johnson are charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and false statements to a financial institution. Johnson was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering – concealment, and Moo was charged with possession of a machine gun.


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