Alan Pawelsky, 28, and his brother Andrew, 25, are facing an 81-count indictment for their involvement, along with co-conspirator Jovaine Clarke, 29, in an alleged large-scale black-market catalytic converters trafficking operation at their Island Park business, Ace Auto Recycling Inc.
Nassau County police raided the shop in December, but did not charge the Long Beach brothers with a crime until last Friday, when they were arrested and arraigned. On May 8, Alan Pawelsky had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against county officials for alleged civil violations during the seizure of $7.5 million in assets five months ago.
The Pawelskys face charges of money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, and conspiracy. They pleaded not guilty before Judge Helene Gugerty in Nassau County Court, and are due back in court on June 1. If convicted of the top charge, they face up to 25 years in prison.
Clarke, of Queens, was arraigned on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, criminal possession of stolen property for auto stripping, criminal mischief and possession of burglar tools, and faces up to seven years in prison. He also pleaded not guilty.
The Pawelskys and Clarke allegedly purchased stolen catalytic converters from as far away as California and opened them to extract platinum, palladium and rhodium that they sent to refineries where they were separated out, weighed and valued. Between June 2021 and December 2022, police officials say, the brothers paid middlemen cash for the converters, and received $170 million from a single refinery, after which the company allegedly withdrew more than $120 million in cash to purchase more converters.
The investigation was conducted by the Nassau County Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations and the Nassau County district attorney.
“Not only are catalytic converter thefts extremely costly to victims, but oftentimes, these types of crimes fund larger criminal enterprises that put the community and country at a greater risk,” Ivan J. Arvelo, Homeland Security Investigations New York special agent in charge, said in a statement. The arrests of the Pawelskys and Clarke, Arvelo added, “demonstrates that HSI remains committed to leveraging our capabilities with our local law enforcement partners to bring these criminals, as delineated in the grand jury indictment, to justice.”
Daniel B. Brubaker, the postal inspector in charge of the New York Division of the USPIS, echoed how effective law enforcement partnership can be. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is proud to have been a partner in this investigation, which targeted the significant rise of catalytic converter thefts that have not only impacted the U.S. Postal Service, but so many of our customers in the communities we serve,” Brubaker said. “Today’s arrests demonstrate our unwavering commitment to bringing to justice anyone who preys upon the American public for illegal financial gain.”
Alan Pawelsky’s attorney, Gerald Cohen, emailed the Herald before the arrest about the civil lawsuit, saying that Pawelsky “is an American success story” who “grew that business to over $100 million in annual revenue in less than ten years.” Cohen added that, “Without a shred of evidence, Nassau County officials targeted Pawelsky and his business solely to make splashy headlines.”
Cohen also wrote that at a news conference in December after the raid, District Attorney Anne Donnelly, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Executive Bruce Blakeman “all made false statements of fact,” specifically, “the officials claimed that the catalytic converters seized from our clients were stolen (they were not stolen), and claimed that Pawelsky was part of a criminal organization stealing catalytic converters.”
In a news release after the arrests, Donnelly stated, “These defendants allegedly purchased truckloads of catalytic converters, many of them stolen from across the country, and siphoned them of precious metals that have seen skyrocketing value in recent years.” She added, “Catalytic converter theft remains one of the fastest growing crimes across the country and here in Nassau County.”
Ryder said that the arrests showed “the enormity of this case,” and that, “Millions of dollars (were) hidden in homes at the expense of our residents as hundreds of catalytic converters were being stolen to promote (the Pawelskys’) profit.”
A civil attorney for Alan Pawelsky, J.R. Stevenson, sent a letter to judge Gugerty last Friday, saying that Stevenson was concerned about the timing of the arrest, ahead of a court hearing in the civil case that had been scheduled for Monday. “The Nassau County (officials’) decision to arrest plaintiff Pawelsky today is obviously strategic gamesmanship designed to alter the landscape and affect this court’s decision,” Stevenson wrote.
Lawrence Carra, who represents Andrew Pawelsky, said that the accusations were unfounded.