Arrest Made In Suspected Catalytic Converter Theft Ring

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A monthslong investigation into a rash of catalytic converter thefts in Athens County led to an arrest last week.

David L. Willison of Chauncey was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. Willison, 45, was arrested Thursday. He was arraigned Friday and his bond was set at $5 million.

David L. Willison

The indictment came three weeks after Athens County sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant on a home in Millfield and found $30,000 in a safe. Investigators say this led to a confession linking the money to sales of drugs and catalytic converters.

The discovery of the money was part of an investigation into a catalytic converter theft ring. Willison is suspected of selling at least 369 catalytic converters totaling $76,753 between July and December last year.

Thefts of catalytic converters, which reduce pollution in a vehicle’s exhaust, have been up sharply around the country, driven by a big increase in the value of the precious metals they contain.

From January through early December last year, 79 cases were reported to the sheriff’s office and 60 to the Athens Police Department.

Catalytic converter thefts at two Athens businesses led deputies to Willison’s home in Chauncey in early October. Five converters were found at the home and Willison was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property.

That charge was dismissed as investigators pursued a larger case against Willison that alleges he was part of an organized crime operation.

Investigators suspect that in some cases, thieves were delivering stolen converters to Willison in exchange for heroin.

Willison is also facing charges from an arrest last June in which deputies seized four ounces of heroin with an estimated street value of $22,000.

Willison was out on bond for the drug charges when he was arrested in October. He is currently being held at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.