A Hudson Valley man is accused of stealing the "most valuable metal on the planet" and illegally possessing 28 guns.

On Monday, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of a Town of Thompson man following a three-month investigation into the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles in Sullivan County.

Catalytic Converters are Considered 'Most Valuable Metal On The Planet'

Searches about why the metal in a catalytic converter is valuable saw a 5,000 percent increase in the past year, according to Scientific American.

The reason the metal in a catalytic converter is "the most valuable metal on the planet."

Advance Auto Parts
Advance Auto Parts

"More valuable than silver, gold, platinum, or even jewelry," Andrew Robinson continues in the Scientific American article. "Rhodium is a key ingredient in every car sold in the United States since around 1975. It’s part of a system that cleans out pollutants and prevents them from entering the atmosphere. And it’s also the reason why thieves across the U.S. are sawing off catalytic converters in order to get their hands on a few precious grams of the world’s most valuable metal."

More valuable than silver, gold, platinum, or even jewelr

In 1970, Congress passed the “Clean Air Act.” The act called for a 90 percent reduction in automobile emissions. That's when researchers developed what is the modern three-way catalytic converter.

EPA Declares Greenhouse Gases A Danger To Human Health
Getty Images

"The converter itself sits just behind the exhaust manifold and before the muffler. It’s purpose: to reduce 3 harmful types of emission: carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (or unburned fuel), and nitrous oxides. The converter on regular fuel vehicles is simple: a stainless steel shell surrounds a ceramic honeycomb monolith��� that monolith is coated with three important precious metals: platinum, palladium, and rhodium," Robinson adds.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, deputies arrested 51-year-old Richard E. Smith, Jr. after executing a search warrant at his residence located on Harris-Bushville Road in the Town of Thompson, police say.


Smith is accused of running an unlicensed vehicle dismantling operation across the street from the Harris Post Office.

During the search of his home, deputies also allegedly discovered 28 long guns. Smith is prohibited from possessing the guns due to prior felony convictions, police say.

Smith was charged with 25 counts of illegal vehicle dismantling and 28 counts of criminal purchase of a weapon, all felonies. He was also charged with several undisclosed DEC violations.

Smith was sent to the Sullivan County jail without bail.

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