Two businesses implicated in a theft ring stealing anti-smog gadgets from the underside of vehicles are the target of a lawsuit announced Thursday by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

“We want to hold businesses accountable for complying with basic rules and ensuring that victims receive restitution to which they are entitled. That’s the purpose of this announcement today,” Feuer said.

The Los Angeles Police Department has received more than 4,300 reports of thefts of the equipment called “catalytic converters” stolen from vehicles over the last four years. But after an LAPD task force made arrests at one of the businesses in 2015, the number of reported thefts dropped by 62 percent in 2016, Feuer said.

Catalytic converters, which on average are worth $150 to $200, contain several precious metals and are often located in an accessible area on the underside of vehicles, making them frequent targets of thieves. California has more catalytic converter thefts than any state in the nation, Feuer said.

Since 2009, state law requires businesses or individuals who purchase catalytic converter parts to keep detailed records of the transactions and prohibits providing cash payments at the time of the sale.

The lawsuit names Gonzalez Brothers LLC, an auto parts recycling business in Pacoima, and Kinsbursky Brothers Supply Inc., a scrap metal recycler in Anaheim.

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges the operators of Gonzalez Brothers knowingly purchased stolen catalytic converters and resold them to other businesses, including Kinsbursky Brothers Supply. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the operators of the businesses, prohibiting them from any future criminal activity, and civil penalties up to $2,500 per violation.

The owners of Gonzalez Brothers could not be reached, and Scott Kinsbursky did not immediately return a call for comment.

An example of a catalytic converter, not one of the converters stolen from the story.

In April 2015, the LAPD formed its task force to take on the problem, which resulted in the arrests of Gonzalez Brothers co-owner Juan Gonzalez and one of his employees, along with five individuals seen entering and exiting the business.

“There’s money to be made by a number of folks involved in it, but ultimately the crime data drove us to the pattern and enabled the task force to follow those patterns and come up with a very effective investigation,” said LAPD Valley Bureau Chief Robert Green.

A search warrant executed at Gonzalez Brothers recovered firearms, tools and other items used to steal converters, and more than 300 converters that did not have any records associated with them, according to the LAPD.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty in December 2015 to felony receipt of stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His employee, Eriberto Molina, pleaded guilty to felony receipt of stolen property in November 2015.

The lawsuit alleges that Kinsbursky Bros. purchased 23,822 catalytic converters between August and September 2015 alone, and none of transactions included the paperwork required by law. A search warrant was executed at the business by the task force on Sept. 22, 2015, but no one was arrested.

During the execution of the warrant, the vice president of the business, Scott Kinsbursky, told an officer that he suspected many of the catalytic converters the business had purchased were stolen, the lawsuit alleges.

–City News Service 

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