Advice from the public helped state police identify three men they believe were involved in the theft of 34 catalytic converters worth $50,000 from vehicles at a Salem RV dealership in October, according to reports. court documents.
Troopers said multiple people said they recognized Kenneth L. Knight Jr., 43, of Jeannette, as a man seen in Valero Century RV surveillance footage just north of Delmont on Route 66. The footage were made public in an effort to identify suspects after the October 2 robbery.
Knight was arrested this week and was being held in Westmoreland County Jail on $50,000 bond. Tyler R. Williams, 22, and Roger N. Williams, 61, both of Penn, who are free on their own recognizance, were also arrested. All three face charges of theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.
A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small muffler designed to convert the environmentally hazardous exhaust gases emitted by a vehicle’s engine into less harmful gases. It usually takes a few minutes to cut, but it can be an expensive repair.
Soldiers said two of the suspects were seen on surveillance video around 2 a.m. using a reciprocating saw under a fleet of Ford and GM Schwan trucks parked on the property and putting the catalytic converters into a large bag . Valero’s website says its service department handles maintenance and repairs to vehicles for the grocery store’s home delivery business.
After state police released the surveillance footage, reports began pouring in to identify Knight as a man seen leaning against a Schwan’s truck during the robberies, according to court documents. Friends, acquaintances and family members of Knight told investigators he previously spoke about the theft of catalytic converters from the dealership and was working with Tyler Williams, police said.
A witness told investigators that Knight showed him a photo of a stack of catalytic converters stored in Roger Williams’ garage and bragged about how much money he would make with them, documents show judicial. Another witness said the items were sold for $4,000.
Police said they seized clothing from Knight’s residence that matched those worn by one of the suspects in the surveillance footage.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting insurance fraud and vehicle theft, and local law enforcement have reported that catalytic converter thefts have increased significantly nationwide since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Manufacturers use precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium, the values of which have increased considerably in recent years.
Police said these thefts generally increase with these prices.
Court documents did not know if Tyler Williams and Roger Williams were related. Their preliminary hearings are set for August 16 and Knight’s is scheduled for July 11.