Ten people have been charged in connection with alleged catalytic converter thefts across northern Penobscot and southern Aroostook counties.
More than 1,000 catalytic converters worth more than $190,000 were stolen over a period dating back to December 2019 , according to the Maine State Police .
The state police were able to recover a number of catalytic converters, along with power tools that are also believed to be stolen.
It will cost an estimated $2 million to replace the stolen parts. The state police said it can cost victims up to $2,000 to replace the parts and they are for a period left without the use of the vehicle until the repairs are completed.
Thieves target catalytic converters for the precious metals inside, which can fetch, depending on the quantity, between $150 and $1,500 a piece, according to the state police. For that reason, the sale of catalytic converters is tightly controlled. Sellers are required to present photo identification and sign an affidavit swearing the parts aren’t stolen.
Hunter Craig, 22, of Patten; James Curtis, 50, of Greenbush; Ronald McGraw, 48, of Stacyville; Larry Morgan, 43, of Sherman; Bud Nason, 26, of Island Falls; Jordan Pelkey, 29, of Stacyville; Kyle Stevens, 34, of Ludlow; Lucas Suitter, 36, of Stacyville; and Jessica Tremblay, 33, of Silver Ridge have been charged with scrap metal processors violations, according to the state police.
They all admitted to a first offense violation, which carries a $1,000 fine, during an appearance in Penobscot District Court. A second offense carried a $3,000 fine and a third a $4,500 fine.
Charles Garton, 41, of Patten was charged with a scrap metal processors violation, unsworn falsification, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, theft by receiving stolen property and violating conditions of release.
He is being held at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor on those and felony drug charges, the state police said Friday.
Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca said southern Aroostook County has become a “hotspot” for catalytic converter thefts over the past couple years.
DeLuca declined to give specifics on individuals his department has summoned for allegedly stealing catalytic converters, citing ongoing investigations. But he said that there have been at least a dozen thefts or attempted thefts in Houlton over the past two weeks.
The Houlton Humane Society said in a Facebook post that the converter had been stripped out of its cargo van. In addition, J. McLaughlin Construction in Houlton had multiple vehicles vandalized in the past two weeks, hindering its ability to conduct business. Priority Auto, a used car dealership on U.S. Route 1, was also victimized.
DeLuca said the precious metals inside catalytic converters are used to manufacture respirators, which has driven up the prices they fetch.
The thefts remain under investigation and more charges are likely.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated that all 10 were arrested for the thefts. Some were charged for violations related to the thefts.