Police Uncover Scheme to Steal, Sell Catalytic Converters from Mercedes Plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Police in Tuscaloosa County have uncovered what appears to be a criminal ring dedicated to the theft and sale of catalytic converters, including dozens stolen brand-new from the Mercedes Benz U.S. International plant in Tuscaloosa.
According to court documents filed Thursday morning, MBUSI security first became aware of the problem when they spotted a custodial employee stealing boxed catalytic converters from inside the plant and handing them off to another employee, 47-year-old Tina Louise Bailey.
Bailey, a Northport woman, allegedly loaded them onto a truck and attempted to leave the plant with seven catalytic converters, each worth around $1,250.
MBUSI security turned the case over to local law enforcement agencies, who launched an investigation into the theft.
The first custodial employee told police that she took the converters "as a favor" for Tina Bailey, that she did not make any money doing so and that she didn't know what Bailey was doing with the stolen equipment after it left the plant.
In a similar vein, Bailey told investigators that she had no idea what was in the boxes and merely took them off MBUSI property for the first employee and planned to hand them back off to her at a later time.
Investigators kept digging and ultimately obtained a search warrant for a used car shop on Highway 43 in Northport, where James Kenneth Hoggle was allegedly buying the converters no questions asked.
There, police hit the motherlode -- a total of 74 catalytic converters worth just shy of $100,000 total.
Hoggle allegedly admitted to police that he bought the catalytic converters from Tina Bailey, that he knew they were stolen from MBUSI and that he never processed any paperwork for the purchases because he knew the equipment was stolen.
Investigators also found other irregularities -- Hoggle allegedly had paperwork claiming he bought two "heavily used" catalytic converters from another person, but officers discovered them to be brand new, stored in a shed with several others.
While Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's deputies and Northport Police officers were on-site, Hoggle also allegedly purchased two more catalytic converters without proper documentation from still another source.
So far, records show both Bailey and Hoggle have been arrested and charged for their roles in what seems to be a widespread scheme for the theft and sale of catalytic converters.
Bailey has been charged with one count of first-degree theft of property for allegedly taking the equipment from MBUSI. Her bond was set at $15,000 then lowered to $5,000. She was not listed as an inmate in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Thursday morning and may have been released on bond.
Hoggle has been charged with two counts of first-degree receiving stolen property and three counts of buying catalytic converters as a secondary metals recycler without proper and verifiable documentation.
Each charge is a Class B felony, and each carries a bond of $15,000, leaving Hoggle's combined bond set at $75,000.
It is unclear if the first MBUSI employee will be charged in the case and until her arrest, she will not be identified by name here.
Additional charges and arrests may be yet to come. Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for additional details as they become available.
UPDATE: Two additional MBUSI employees have been charged with first-degree theft of property for their alleged role in this process.
The first employee mentioned in this report, 37-year-old Katrese Lashelle Thomas, was arrested for her role in turning over the stolen converters to Bailey.
Wesley Tyler Little, a 26-year-old Carrolton man, stands accused of stealing two converters from the Mercedes plant and selling them to Hoggle.