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Sheriff’s Office Investigates Theft Ring of Catalytic Converters & Copper, Announces Arrests

ASHEBORO N.C. – Four individuals are facing a total of 69 felony charges following an investigation into a theft-ring stealing catalytic converters and copper in northwestern Randolph County.

After being rescheduled from earlier this month, the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on April 1st 2022, where they revealed they had been involved in a multi-week investigation into what they called a “theft-ring” operating in the Trinity, Archdale, Thomasville, and High Point areas. That investigation led to the arrest of four men who combined are now facing almost 70 felonies.

LIVE: Press Conference on catalytic converter thefts and impact. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey joins @RandolphCountyNCSheriffsOffice and State Sen. Dave Craven in Asheboro, NC. #catalyticconverter #catalyticconvertertheft #asheboronc

Posted by NC Department of Insurance on Friday, April 1, 2022

The Investigation

The Sheriff’s Office says they were able to obtain information and evidence from local citizens who helped in identifying potential suspects involved in the theft of catalytic converters and copper in the area.

One of those tips pointed investigators to a U-Haul truck that had been seen in the area of multiple larcenies. The Sheriff’s Office identified Ricky Shawn Morris as the person who had leased and was operating the truck.

Collecting additional information investigators said they were able to identify several other suspects, who were all also seen in the area of the thefts. Those suspects were identified in a press release as Christopher Allen Bolling, James Vincent Kennedy, Jr., and Christopher Cole Lawson.

Using that information on March 9th, 2022, deputies were able to locate Morris and the U-Haul truck at a residence on Beckerdite Rd. in Sophia. During a search the Sheriff’s Office says they located methamphetamine, paraphernalia, and burglary tools inside the cab of the truck. Morris was also being investigated by the the High Point Police Department for the theft of a trailer and deputies say they located that trailer at the residence.

Morris was arrested and police seized the U-Haul as evidence, and on Thursday, March 10th, investigators obtained a search warrant for the contents of the truck where the Sheriff’s Offices says the found multiple catalytic converters and other related burglary tools.

Ricky Shawn Morris

Ricky Shawn Morris

  • Felony Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Felony Possession of Burglary Tools
  • Felony Possession of Stolen Motor Vehicle Misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Three counts Felony Possession of Stolen Goods/Property
  • Felony Attempted Larceny
  • Felony Aid and Abet to Obtain Property by False Pretense
  • Misdemeanor Injury to Personal Property
  • Felony Larceny (Guilford County)

50,000 total secured bond plus EHA

According to a press release, deputies found out that the additional suspects were using an address on Eastward Ave in High Point as the “hub of their criminal activity.” Members of the Sheriff’s Office’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) conducted surveillance on the residence as well as another potential home on Bethel Drive.

With evidence from that they were able to obtain a search warrant for the home on Eastward Ave. and arrest warrants for Christopher Allen Bolling, James Vincent Kennedy, Jr., and Christopher Cole Lawson for felony larceny of motor vehicle parts and felony possession of stolen goods/property.

At 3 pm, on March 10, 2022, police and investigators executed the search warrant. The press release says during the search they located multiple catalytic converters as well as “multiple backpacks containing evidence of these crimes, suspected methamphetamines, and suspected heroin.” Bolling and Kennedy were located at the residence, placed under arrest and transported to the Randolph County Detention Center where they were served their warrants.

Christopher Allen Bolling

Christopher Allen Bolling

  • Eight count Felony Larceny of Motor Vehicle Parts
  • Eleven counts Felony Possession of Stolen Goods/Property
  • Felony Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Felony Possession of Heroin
  • Felony Possession of Burglary Tools
  • Five counts Felony Obtain Property by False Pretense
  • Three counts Felony Attempted Larceny
  • Felony Larceny of Motor Vehicle
  • Misdemeanor Possession of Stolen Goods/Property
  • Three counts Misdemeanor Injury to Personal Property

$46,000 total secured bond plus EHA

James Vincent Kennedy, Jr.

James Vincent Kennedy, Jr.

  • Eight Counts Felony Larceny of Motor Vehicle Parts
  • Eleven Counts Felony Possession of Stolen Goods/Property
  • Felony Possession of Burglary Tools
  • Three Counts Felony Attempted Larceny
  • Three Counts Misdemeanor Injury to personal Property

$40,000 total secured bond

On March 11, 2022, Christopher Cole Lawson was served a warrant while confined in the Guilford County Detention Center and received a $500 secured bond from a Guilford County magistrate. A court date was set for April 25, 2022, in Randolph County District Court. Later on on March 19th, 2022, in Alamance County Lawson was served with the warrants for felony possession of burglary tools and three counts of felony possession of stolen goods/property. He received a $1,000 secured bond and has a court date scheduled for April 25, 2022, in Randolph County District Court.

Christopher Cole Lawson

Christopher Cole Lawson

  • Felony Larceny of Motor Vehicle Parts
  • Four Felony Possession of Stolen Goods/Property
  • Felony Possession of Burglary Tools

$1500 total secured bond

All the suspects were served with additional warrants during the following weeks as the investigation progressed.

A New Law

At the press conference Randolph County Sheriff Greg Seabolt said the Sheriff’s Office would be speaking with the Judge and the DA to pursue lengthier sentences in these cases. He went on to refer to the suspects arrested as “druggies”, saying they should get a job. “It would be so much easier for them to go fill out an application and go to work and earn their money instead of having to stay up late, crawling under a greasy automobile” said Seabolt.

The efforts of the Sheriff’s Office was backed up by NC Senator Dave Craven who sponsored a now passed bill increasing the penalties for stealing and purchasing catalytic converters. Sen Craven said that the increased penalties were a key component of the lew law, “what we addressed was not only to make it harder for somebody who’s out there stealing a catalytic converter but make tougher laws and regulations and reporting environments for individuals purchasing those stolen catalytic convertors”.

The new law, which went into effect on Dec 1st 2021, makes the stealing a catalytic converter a Class I Felony with a mandatory $1,000 fine. It also requires secondary metals recycler to maintain a an electronic
record of all purchases in which they purchase “regulated metals”.

While the law also bans the possession of a catalytic converter that has been removed from a motor vehicle, saying that a person is “presumed to have obtained the catalytic converter under circumstances
constituting a violation.” The law makes exceptions for individuals who possesses a vehicle registration indicating that the catalytic converter is a replacement from a vehicle registered to that person as well as authorized scrap metal buyers and recyclers’.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Thefts

Thieves have been targeting catalytic convertors across the nation due to the fact the precious metals they contain are currently worth more than gold and because of how quickly they can slide under a car, cut out the device and get away.

So how do you prevent someone from stealing your catalytic converter?

  • Etch your license plate number or your vehicles VIN number onto your catalytic converter to make the part traceable by law enforcement if its recovered.
  • Park in well-lit areas, most thefts come from cars parked overnight, so the National Insurance Criminal Bureau (NICB) recommends parking in a well-lit area.
  • Install an anti-theft device that makes it harder for thieves to get to or remove the converter. These devices can be anything from a metal shield bolted to the vehicle frame to cover the catalytic converter to cable systems that prevent the park from being removed from the vehicle after it has been cut. Many kits are available online, including DIY options and many mechanic shops now sell and install these device.

The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is on-going and yet more charges may be announced. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Randolph County Crime Stoppers.