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Decide hears closing arguments in main Edmonton catalytic converter theft trial

Police arrested Awte in June 2020 with a whole bunch of converters, a few of which had been saved in a trailer he was hauling on Freeway 16

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The trial of a person accused of being a hub in a significant catalytic converter theft ring is pulling again the curtain on the profitable commerce within the metropolis.

Tekie Reka Awte is coming into the ultimate phases of a Courtroom of King’s Bench trial on costs of trafficking in and possessing stolen property.

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Police arrested Awte in June 2020 with a whole bunch of converters, a few of which had been saved in a trailer he was hauling on Freeway 16. Prosecutors say Awte had “simply in extra” of 600 converters, 463 of which had been seized by police.

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Investigators pegged the worth of the seized converters at $300,000.

The Crown claims Awte bought converters from a wide range of sellers, a few of whom had been convicted catalytic converter thieves who minimize the gadgets off the underside of automobiles. A submitting from prosecutor Kate Andress says that whereas Crown doesn’t imagine each converter was stolen, “the totality of the circumstances show past an inexpensive doubt that almost all of them had been.”

Awte, who has pleaded not responsible, says he was operating a official steel recycling enterprise. He says the Crown has didn’t show the converters had been stolen, or that in the event that they had been, that he knew that they had been illegally acquired.

A standard drawback

Catalytic converters flip dangerous gases from engine combustion into less-dangerous exhaust fumes, together with carbon dioxide and water. They had been in notably excessive demand in 2020 on account of excessive costs for the valuable metals of their ceramic substrates, generally known as honeycombs, which include platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Theft of the gadgets is a significant drawback, notably in Edmonton. Police have held quite a few press conferences on the problem, together with a contest that includes a $50,000 prize to develop theft deterrent gadgets. On the time of Awte’s arrest, police mentioned a complete of 756 converters had been reported stolen within the metropolis in only one 4 month span alone.

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Police started surveilling Awte in early 2020. Between Jan. 3 and June 11, covert officers noticed him on 25 events, throughout which he allegedly interacted with recognized catalytic converter thieves, typically taking catalytic converters from them, different instances heavy duffle baggage.

Police say Awte typically unloaded gadgets at a U-Haul storage locker. Investigators ultimately obtained a covert entry warrant for the storage locker and put in a hidden digital camera and a tool to alert investigators every time the door opened. Police mentioned Awte appeared to take care when visiting the locker, opening the overhead door as little as potential. Police secretly entered the storage unit 13 instances and noticed a complete of 348 catalytic converters.

Awte was arrested June 11, 2020, throughout a visitors cease on Yellowhead Path. Police allege he was certain for a steel recycler in Abbotsford, B.C., an worker of which mentioned Awte claimed he had round $70,000 value of converters to promote.

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Awte advised investigators he might show the place each catalytic converter police seized got here from. In an interview after his arrest, he mentioned his firm, On Time Recycling, acquired most of its product by posting adverts and shopping for from scrap steel outlets. He advised police he checked the vendor’s ID and logged their title and telephone quantity every time he purchased a converter.

Awte’s lawyer, Sam Jomha, mentioned the proof doesn’t set up the place a single one of many catalytic converters got here from. He requested for an acquittal and for all seized property to be returned to his shopper.

“To at the present time nobody can pinpoint anybody supply for any catalytic converter, nor can a rightful proprietor be recognized, nor can anybody single converter be recognized as being stolen,” he mentioned in a submitting.

‘Defies chance’

Andress, nevertheless, mentioned circumstantial proof strongly suggests many of the gadgets had been stolen.

She mentioned 96 per cent of a pattern of 167 converters analyzed by a police knowledgeable had been minimize, fairly than unbolted, which is normal apply in restore outlets. Many had additionally had their oxygen sensors minimize, proof the converter had been eliminated in a rush.

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“It defies chance and even chance that this amount of minimize (versus unbolted) converters would innocently come into Awte’s possession by means aside from theft,” Andress advised courtroom.

Awte was additionally noticed commonly shopping for converters sight unseen, which Andress mentioned undercut his claims of due diligence. She claimed the receipt guide Awte saved was “fabricated” forward of the Abbotsford transaction.

She additionally pointed to a wide range of textual content messages wherein Awte chastised sellers for speaking about enterprise over the telephone. In a single textual content, despatched simply earlier than 1 a.m., Awte advised a vendor: “Man don’t u ever textual content me s— like this plz.”

Andress mentioned that even when the courtroom finds Awte didn’t know the converters had been stolen, he may be convicted for being wilfully blind to their origins.

“Awte accepted property which he knew to be generally stolen property, in circumstances the place the converters had been all the time minimize fairly than unbolted, from individuals who had been in a determined monetary scenario and didn’t seem like acquiring them in the middle of employment,” she mentioned.

Awte’s case is subsequent in courtroom Sept. 22 to guide a date for Justice Gaylene Kendell’s resolution.

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