JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – Authorities in Johnson County have entered a new phase in the fight against catalytic converter thefts by going after businesses and individuals suspected of illegally purchasing the stolen parts.

Today, Johnson County Sheriffs, Franklin Police and Edinburgh Police issued a total of five arrest warrants at two businesses and one home in Edinburgh.

Ashley Browning, 32, Edinburgh and Latona Bryant, 31, Columbus were each arrested at Cats Plus on Main Cross Street. William Burton, 62, Edinburgh, was arrested nearby at Group Metals Recycling. Glen Johnson, 36, Edinburgh was arrested at his home on Center Park Drive. Tammy Hill, 57, Trafalgar, who is also connected to Cats Plus, later turned herself in at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department in Franklin.

All five suspects are accused of illegally buying catalytic converters from individuals who did not have proper documentation to prove they own the vehicle the catalytic converter came from. Such documentation is required under a new state law passed last year. The law, authorized by State Senator Jack Sandlin, increased violations to a level 6 felony, instead of a class A misdemeanor.

Recently passed legislation also means the illegal purchase of catalytic converters can lead to a felony charge of concealing a valuable metal purchase. Four of the five arrested suspects face one such charge. Glen Johnson faces nine of the counts. Investigators believe he acted as a “middle man,” buying stolen converters from people and then reselling them to the two businesses.

The operation that led to Wednesday’s arrests came after a year-long investigation into businesses that purchase catalytic converters. In August 2021, police began meeting with businesses to make sure they were aware of recent changes to state law and to put them on notice that audits of catalytic converter sales would be coming.

In January 2022, undercover investigators began bringing catalytic converters to the businesses to sell.  Investigators documented numerous cases where the businesses purchased the converters without the documents to make the sale legal. During this time, detectives determined that the individuals involved in the case were capable of dealing with up to 1,500 catalytic converters in a day.

“Cutting the head off the snake,” said Johnson County Sheriffs Commander Damian Katt. “What we want to try and do is change behavior, and make it less available and easy to offload one and make easy cash.”

Detective Joe Pierce said the operation demonstrates a new approach to fighting catalytic converter theft, which can be a costly crime for victims on a daily basis.

“People waking up, cars being extremely loud, they find out they’re missing parts and now they have $2,000- $3,000 worth of work that they have to pay for,” Pierce said.  

Pierce said recent changes to state law are giving police more ability to go after those involved in the illegal sale and purchase of catalytic converters.

“People tend to shrug off misdemeanor, but felony has a different sound to it,” Pierce said.

Katt said the arrests and future operations should send a strong message to those who make a living off stealing catalytic converters.

“It’s much more difficult for a thief to go make money from selling a catalytic converter that just got cut off of a vehicle,” Katt said. “I believe we’re going to be able to minimize the amount of opportunities that folks have to unload these illegal catalytic converters.”