HOUSTON – A joint task force raided six locations Thursday, and arrested six persons suspected of involvement in a city-wide wave of catalytic converter thefts.
Authorities said that the raids and arrests were based on information developed after the shooting death of Sheriff’s deputy Darren Almendarez. Aldine Deputy Almendarez was fatally shot last March while attempting to stop thieves who were stealing the catalytic converter from his pickup truck. Almendarez was on a shopping trip on FM1960 with his wife and another person. Three men have been charged with that theft and murder.
Several arrests have been made in connection with a large-scale catalytic converter theft ring which has possible ties to the fatal shooting of a Harris County sheriff’s deputy
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety were involved in arresting six people Thursday for their alleged roles in the ring theft.
According to a news release from Texas DPS, the six men arrested are suspected of fencing stolen catalytic converters for the three suspects previously charged in connection with the death of HCSO Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darren Almendarez. The deputy was killed while off-duty in a shootout with three alleged catalytic converter thieves, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
On March 31, Almendarez and his wife were out grocery shopping in the 2900 block of FM 1960 near Aldine Westfield when he encountered three men allegedly stealing a catalytic converter from his truck. Gunfire erupted, and Almendarez was struck. He was rushed to an area hospital where he later died.
The suspects in the shooting who are each charged with capital murder are Joshua Stewart, 23; Fredarius Clark, 19; and Fredrick James Tardy, 17.
The six suspects arrested for fencing stolen catalytic converters are Jose Martinez, 19; Armando Martinez, 18; Isaac Castillo, 21; Terance Elder, 20; and Armando Martinez Sr., 39; all residents of Houston, and Jose Sanchez, a 21-year-old resident of Dayton, Texas.
Six federal search warrants were also executed at five Houston-area residences and one storage facility as part of the multi-agency criminal investigation into the organized theft group, according to authorities.
“Our community has been increasingly plagued by these types of crimes,” said Harris County 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.”
The investigation into the organized theft group has previously resulted in the arrest of one other individual. In this raid seized were more than $484,000 in bulk currency, one firearm, and narcotics, according to DPS.
DPS reports organized theft groups frequently target catalytic converters for the precious metals that they contain such as palladium, platinum and rhodium. The precious metals are extremely valuable, and a worldwide supply shortage has created an increased demand for them further driving up the value.