Two Nassau County, New York, brothers and a co-conspirator were arrested and charged in an 81-count indictment on Friday alleging they engaged in a black-market catalytic converter trafficking operation that at one point netted the brothers $170 million from a single refinery.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly made the announcement last week, alleging that between 2021 and 2022, Alan and Andrew Pawelsky trafficked stolen catalytic converters from states as far as California, extracted precious metals from inside and sent those metals to refineries to be paid.

The Pawelsky brothers were arraigned in front of Judge Helen Gugerty on first- and second-degree money laundering, second- third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen propert and fourth-degree conspiracy.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges and bail was set at $50,000 cash, $100 bond, and $500,000 partially secured bond.

Pile of Catalytic Converters
A cache of stolen catalytic converters.  (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

“These defendants allegedly purchased truckloads of catalytic converters, many of them stolen from across the country, and siphoned them of precious metals that have seen skyrocketing value in recent years,” Donnelly said. “The metals were allegedly sent to refineries and weighed, netting the defendants more than $170 million.”

Jovanie Clark, 29, of Flushing, Queens was also arraigned on Friday, on charges of third-degree grand larceny, third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, second-degree auto stripping, second-degree criminal mischie and possession of burglar tools.

Clark pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on his own recognizance.

The DA alleges that between June 2021 and December 2022, the Pawelsky brothers were involved in the trafficking of stolen catalytic converters, which were stolen from places like California, Minnesota, Connecticut and New York.

The two men are accused of purchasing volumes of whole catalytic converters with cash and using special tools to open the units to obtain platinum, palladium and rhodium.

The tools used to extract the precious metals were at Alan Pawelsky’s company, Ace Auto Recycling, the DA said.

While all three metals hold high values, Rhodium has an estimated value of $7,500 per ounce. Gold has a value of about $2,000 per ounce.

After the metal was extracted, the DA alleged, the two brothers sent them off to refineries to be separated, weighed and appraised before the money was wired to Ace Auto Recycling.

A catalytic converter sitting on the ground of a shop
A brand new catalytic converter sits on the floor at Johnny Franklin’s Muffler on July 11, 2022 in San Rafael, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One refinery allegedly paid Ace $170 million over the course of the 18-month period. Of that money, the DA claims, Ace pulled out over $120 million in cash, some of which was used to buy more stolen catalytic converters.

Clarke is accused of selling the devices to Andrew Pawelsky directly.

“Not only are catalytic converter thefts extremely costly to victims, but oftentimes, these types of crimes fund larger criminal enterprises that put the community and country at a greater risk,” Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said. “Today’s arrests of brothers Alan Pawelsky and Andrew Pawelsky, as well as their alleged co-conspirator, demonstrates that HSI remains committed to leveraging our capabilities with our local law enforcement partners to bring these criminals, as delineated in the grand jury indictment, to justice.”

All three men are expected back in court on June 1. If convicted, the Pawelsky brothers face up to 25 years in prison, while Clarke faces up to 7 years.

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