HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Six suspects were arrested on Thursday by various law enforcement agencies for their alleged roles in a large-scale catalytic converter theft ring that is suspected of fencing stolen catalytic converters for three individuals charged with murdering Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Darren Almendarez.
The individuals arrested include Jose Martinez, 19, Armando Martinez, 18, Isaac Castillo, 21, Terance Elder, 20, and Armando Martinez, Sr., 39, all of Houston. Jose Sanchez, 21, of Dayton, Texas, was also arrested.
According to a release, authorities also executed six federal search warrants at five Houston-area homes and storage facility as part of the operation.
"For far too long, violent criminal networks and organized theft rings like this have bred chaos and terror in our communities," said HSI Houston Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson. "Together with our fellow law enforcement partners, HSI Houston is committed to bring every resource to bear to vigorously pursue these dangerous criminal elements and will not rest until we can restore peace and order for the hard-working and law-abiding residents of Houston."
The investigation into the organized theft group has previously resulted in the arrest of one other individual and the seizure of more than $484,000 in bulk currency, one firearm, and narcotics.
"Our community has been increasingly plagued by these types of crimes," said HCSO Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. "I am thankful for all efforts made to arrest these dangerous individuals. This operation would not have been a success without the strong collaboration of several agencies within our region."
FOX 26 spoke with a recent victim who had his converters stolen while staying at the Hampton Inn Houston at Brookhollow.
"Woke up in the morning and got my kids ready, we went down to the car, turned it on, and it made a horrible sound," says Freddy, who does not want his face shown. "I took it to the nearest shop, and as soon as I pulled up, someone told me you’ve been robbed."
Freddy tells us, his car had two on each side and the thieves got away with a total of four of them.
He says he quickly realized catalytic converter thefts are a big issue.
"Police said they’ve gone to that same hotel many times for the same issue," said Freddy.