Corey Thomas Nielson, 42, of Hinckley has been charged with felony theft, burglary, receiving stolen property, damage to property and other charges after reportedly confessing to the theft of multiple catalytic converters – and after 16 catalytic converters were found in the trunk of a car on his property.
The Pine County Sheriff’s Office reported that it has received approximately 10 reports of catalytic converter thefts – with total estimated damages of over $15,000 – since Dec. 1, 2020.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Pine County Court, on Jan. 19, a deputy responded to the report of a catalytic converter theft from Arlen Krantz Ford Dealership in Sandstone. Two catalytic converters had been removed from vehicles by cutting out a portion of the metal exhaust system. The replacement cost was estimated at $2,473.
Brook Park Auto Salvage subsequently advised the deputy that Nielson had brought a matching catalytic converter in to attempt to sell it. They refused to take the catalytic converter. A review of business records and video surveillance shows that Nielson attempted to sell catalytic converters to them on Jan. 22, 23, and 26.
Shortly after midnight on Jan. 28, a Pine County Sheriff’s Office sergeant was on routine patrol in Hinckley when he observed a Buck LeSabre parked on the side of Sunset Lane near Jensen Backhoe. One man was in the driver’s seat and Nielson was standing nearby wearing a headlamp. Nielson said they had been shopping and he had pulled over to get some of the bags ready so he could surprise his girlfriend when he got home. Hacksaw blades were visible in plain sight in the shopping bags.
The afternoon of Jan. 28, an investigator observed the Buick LeSabre parked in the driveway of Nielson’s Hinckley apartment building. A tool bag was in plain view in the backseat.
On Feb. 2, Frontier Auto Sales in Pine City reported that catalytic converters had been cut off seven of the vehicles in their lot. The same day, Dale’s Heating and Appliance reported that a catalytic converter had been cut off a 2011 Ford Econoline work van.
Video surveillance showed the theft took place on Jan. 21. In the video, a dark-colored Ford F-150 enters the lot and a male walks to the van carrying a machine-powered saw. He is under the van for approximately three minutes before returning to the truck. The male in the video is the same male in the surveillance video from Brook Park Auto Salvage. Nielson was stopped in a Ford F-150 during a routine traffic stop on Feb. 2.
On Feb. 2, a Pine County Sheriff’s Office investigator obtained a search warrant and placed a GPS tracker on the LeSabre connected to Nielson. At the Home Depot in Forest Lake the investigator observed Nielson unload a shopping cart full of items into the vehicle. The store manager provided information about the purchase which included band saw blades and a drill bit set. Band saw blades are a common tool for cutting catalytic converters from cars.
On Feb. 3, law enforcement conducted surveillance of the LeSabre. The LeSabre was in the parking lot of the power substation at Cloverdale Road in Sandstone. When the LeSabre left the parking lot, the investigator saw footprints from the vehicle leading across the road and to a farm on Duxbury Road. There were two cars parked at the address. One, a Saturn, was jacked up on a wooden pallet. The farm owner discovered that an electric compressor motor was missing from his stand-up air compressor located in a shed on the property. The compressor had been bolted to the motor and tools were required to remove it. The farm owner valued the compressor at $600 to replace. The catalytic converter from the Saturn was also missing.
A deputy attempted to follow the LeSabre but it was traveling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour and he could not safely keep up with it. The LeSabre was located in the driveway of a residence on State Highway 48. Its lights were off. The vehicle then turned around. The deputy initiated a traffic stop. Nielson, who was in the driver’s seat, was ordered out of the car and arrested. When Nielson got out of the vehicle, his cell phone fell out of his lap. He was listening to the Pine County law enforcement scanner using an app on the phone.
After a Miranda warning, Nielson reportedly admitted he stole the compressor motor and the catalytic converter from the Saturn on the farm, the catalytic converter theft from Dale’s Heating and the thefts from Frontier Auto. Nielson told the officer he was stealing catalytic converters for money. He said he drove an F-150 during the Pine City thefts that belonged to his sponsor, and that 15-17 catalytic converters stolen from various vehicles were stored in the trunk of a green Chevy Malibu parked at his apartment in Hinckley. Nielson admitted to speeding because he thought he saw a squad car behind him, and did not want to get stopped. He has a revoked driver’s license.
Law enforcement obtained and executed a search warrant for the Buick and found steel cutting blades, a battery powered saw and charger, head lamps, and a car jack. The trunk contained the catalytic converter and compressor motor from the farm.
Law enforcement obtained and executed a search warrant on the Malibu parked at Nielson’s residence. Sixteen catalytic converters were recovered from it.
Nielson now faces six felony and two misdemeanor charges in Pine County Court. The maximum charge is 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.