Jacksonville police arrested a man with a saw and what they said was a stolen catalytic converter – and there may be plenty more where that came from, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police suspect Torre Ludwig in at least seven thefts of the converters, which reduce vehicle emissions as part of a vehicle’s exhaust system the newspaper reported. Someone matching Ludwig’s description was seen in mechanics clothes going under a car parked in downtown Jacksonville and a surveillance camera showed Ludwig’s van nearby. The car is question was missing its catalytic converter. The converters are made with valuable metals that make them attractive for resale – similar to copper wiring from air conditioning unites. Converters can cost up to $2,000 to replace and they fetch between $100 and $150 at a scrap or salvage yard. Ludwig had sold 13 to an Orange Park salvage yard in the past month for a total of just more than $1,100, according to the Times-Union report. An employee at the yard eventually called police.
These numbers are crucial for the criminal case (likely to soon be cases) against Ludwig. Jacksonville Theft Charges carry various penalties – from days in jail to years in prison – based on the value of the property. And that value is based on how much it is worth – not how much someone was able to get for it. A common example, and one of the most common stolen items, would be jewelry. If someone steals a $10,000 wedding ring, it is a Jacksonville, Florida felony – even if someone trades it for $100 worth of drugs. So back to Ludwig, if police keep investigating and end up charging him in more converter thefts, they would all be felonies because the converters are worth more than $300. That is true even though the average Ludwig received for the converters at the Orange Park yard is less than $100 apiece.
For now, Ludwig is facing one Florida grand theft charge – a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Ludwig is also charged with the felony of being a secondary metal recycler, after telling police he bought the items on Craigslist and then sold them to the scrap yard. That charge is essentially the state trying to prove its point that it caught Ludwig in a lie and trying to force his hand on the theft charge. That charge also has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. It is not uncommon for the state to charge both ends, so to speak. Either Ludwig was stealing the convertors (a crime) or he was illegally reselling them (also a crime, according to the state). That doesn’t leave much wiggle room in the state’s mind – assuming the thefts can be proven. Enough proof for an arrest and enough proof for a conviction are always two very different standards.
Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney has represented hundreds of clients charged with various theft crimes in Duval County, Clay County, and Nassau County and will thoroughly investigate your case to see how much evidence the state does in fact have.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Theft Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.