David Willison

David Willison. Photo from The Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office announced they arrested a suspect Thursday in the string of catalytic converter thefts throughout Athens County in 2020.

David Willison, 45, of Chauncey, was arrested Thursday for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, according to a press release.

Throughout 2020, the county was plagued by catalytic converter thefts, the release said. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 4, 2020, 79 cases of catalytic converter theft were reported to the Sheriff’s Office and 60 cases were reported to The Athens Police Department.

Through the investigation with the Criminal Interdiction Unit, the Athens County Sheriff’s office was able to locate documentation of Willison selling 369 catalytic converters for a price of $76,753.

The catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device used reduce airborne pollutants that could harm people as well as the environment by turning noxious gasses into less harmful ones.

The New York Times reported that catalytic converter theft is on the rise throughout the country as the materials used to make them have skyrocketed in value.

Willison’s arrest was part of an ongoing investigation.

In June 2020, Willison was arrested for possession of nearly four ounces of heroin valued at $22,000. The case is still pending in the court system, the release said.

In Sept. 2020, Athens transmission reported converters stolen from eight vehicles, according to the press release. Security footage allowed investigators to identify suspects, and it was determined the suspects took the converters to Willison in exchange for heroin.

In October, two suspects in a catalytic converter theft were arrested in Chauncey, where five converters were located.

On Jan. 21, 2021, police executed a search warrant in Millfield at a residence believed to be used for drug and catalytic converter sales. Law enforcement recovered $30,000 from a safe and a confession on where the money came from.

Willison was arrested on active warrant and is being held at the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail. A bond hearing is scheduled for a later date.

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