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HOUSTON TEXAS— Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Houston Police Department (HPD), and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) arrested six individuals on July 28 for their alleged roles in a large-scale catalytic converter theft ring that is suspected of fencing stolen catalytic converters for the three individuals charged with murdering HCSO Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darren Almendarez.

Authorities also executed six federal search warrants at five Houston-area residences and one storage facility as part of the large-scale, multi-agency criminal investigation into the organized theft group.

The individuals arrested under state arrest warrants for their alleged roles in the theft ring were 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.

“For far too long, violent criminal networks and organized theft rings like this have bred chaos and terror in our communities,” said Mark Dawson, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “Together with our fellow law enforcement partners, HSI Houston is committed to bring every resource to bear to pursue these dangerous criminal elements vigorously and will not rest until we can restore peace and order for the hard-working and law-abiding residents of Houston.”

“Our community has been increasingly plagued by these types of crimes,” said HCSO Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “I am thankful for all efforts made to arrest these dangerous individuals. This operation would not have succeeded without the strong collaboration of several agencies within our region.”

“Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) special agents and troopers were pleased to play a significant role in this complex investigation of a dangerous theft ring,” said DPS Regional Director Jason Taylor. “Today’s arrests demonstrate that DPS remains committed to leveraging our efforts, so law enforcement — working together — will continue to bring criminals to justice.”

The investigation into the organized theft group has previously resulted in the arrest of one other individual and the seizure of more than $484,000 in bulk currency, one firearm, and narcotics.

Organized theft groups frequently target catalytic converters for their precious metals, 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 their value.

For more news and information on HSI Houston’s efforts to keep Southeast Texas communities safe from transnational gangs, organized theft groups, and other violent criminal activity, follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.

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