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Police bust catalytic converter theft ring
MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Local police say they’ve uncovered a statewide crime ring.
The Southwest Enforcement Team says it stumbled onto a theft ring that may have impacted hundreds of victims across the state in recent months. In fact, they’ve identified victims in ten counties so far.
Now detectives are hoping viewers can help place two men and a red van at the scene of the crimes.
Police have tracked the suspects from Muskegon to Ann Arbor and so far have identified between 50 and 100 victims.
They’ve made two arrests already and say there will be at least one more coming, but how many more people are involved and how many more victims are out there is something investigators are still working to determine.
“Originally we thought maybe they were dealing drugs,” said an undercover Southwest Michigan Enforcement Team (SWET) member.
The SWET member says suspicious activity led to surveillance.
“Plumbers shouldn’t be driving across the state stopping at park and rides,” said the SWET member.
Park and rides along hundreds of miles of I-69, I-95, I-96 and US-131.
“Originally we thought maybe they were dealing drugs at these park and rides,” said the SWET member.
On January 18th, they followed Ronald Baggett and Ricky Short in their bright red Baggett and Sons plumbing van to a park and ride in Coopersville off I-96.
“My unit, the DEA and the MET from Grand Rapids were able to actually get in place,” said the SWET member.
He says they watched as Ricky Short hopped out of the Baggett and Sons van.
“Walked between two vehicles, dropped down,” said the SWET member. “Watched him about 45 seconds later pop up with a Sawzall and a catalytic converter. That’s what they’ve been doing all this time, son of a gun.”
SWET arrested both men and started looking for other victims.
“On November 14th we handled seven incidents where they stole catalytic converters,” said Det. Sgt. Matt Doan, MSP Wayland Post. “One of the subjects took their vehicle in and it was a total cost of like $1,500.”
Sgt. Doan says all seven victims parked at the Bradley or Dorr exit park and rides on 131.
“We had no idea who did it, we had no suspects,” said Doan.
No idea, until he was contacted by SWET.
“Put two and two together and believe that the three suspects they’re looking at are the ones that did ours here in Allegan County,” said Doan.
To date investigators say they have found victims in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Allegan, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Jackson, Eaton and Washtenaw counties. Now they’re hoping witnesses can place their suspects and the red van at the scene of the crimes.
“That’s going to help us bolster our case,” said the SWET member.
If you think you have been victimized or have seen the men involved or the Baggett and Sons van at park and rides or parking lots anywhere across the state, you are asked to call the SWET tip line, 1-877-616-4677.