Whatcom recycling shop owner suspected of running catalytic converter ‘crew of thieves’

Here’s what the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office does

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.
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The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.

The owner of a Whatcom County scrap metal recycling company is suspected of running a “crew of thieves” at least partially responsible for a rash of more than 100 catalytic converter thefts the past nine months in Whatcom County causing more than $100,000 in losses.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office booked Shawn Alan Bannon, 52, of Blaine into Whatcom County Jail on Tuesday, June 18, on suspicion of four counts of first-degree trafficking stolen property and five counts of attempted trafficking of stolen property.

Bannon is the owner of SAB Recycling LLC, located north of Bellingham on Guide Meridian, according to the Washington State Secretary of State’s office.

The Sheriff’s Office and several other local law enforcement agencies were investigating a string of thefts of a catalytic converters — an exhaust emission control device located on the underside of vehicles — that occurred in late 2018 and the first half of 2019.

According to information provided to The Bellingham Herald by Chief Deputy Kevin Hester, a confidential informant told sheriff’s detectives, “converter thefts in Whatcom County would likely stop if Bannon wasn’t buying them.”

According to the information Hester provided The Herald, one of the thefts was captured on video surveillance, and the suspect was identified and contacted by detectives. The suspect reportedly confessed to his involvement in the theft and three others and agreed to cooperate as a confidential informant.

The informant reported that the catalytic converters were sold to Bannon of SAB Recycling, Hester said, and that Bannon had a “crew of thieves,” he pays cash, depending on the converter type. The informant also reported that Bannon managed the crew and warned them when the thefts were capturing too much attention.

Sheriff’s detectives received authorization to record catalytic converter sales to Bannon, Hester said, and between March and June recorded five catalytic converter sales between the informant and Bannon. During those sales, Bannon reportedly was recorded:

Instructing the informant not to do anything in Whatcom County “until things calm down.”

Instructing the informant to “keep it easy ... like one a week.”

Telling the informant that they would need to change the times and locations of their meeting locations.

Telling the informant what types of converters to steal based on value.

Hester said Bannon also failed to keep records of transaction required of a scrap metal recycler, including a signature of whom the transaction was with; time, date and location of each transaction; name of the employee representing the scrap metal business; name, address and phone number of the person with whom the transaction was made; license plate, insurance and description of the vehicle used to deliver the scrap metal; current driver’s license number of the scrap metal seller; and a description of the scrap metal, including weight, quantity or volume.

According to a sheriff’s office press release on the thefts, Bannon was contacted on Tuesday and admitted to purchasing catalytic converters he suspected were stolen.

The Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale police departments all cooperated in the investigation, the release said, and investigators have identified several local suspects who were selling the converters to Bannon.

According to Whatcom County Superior Court records, Bannon is scheduled for a June 28 arraignment.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.