A routine traffic stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, led to a massive investigation that exposed a nationwide network of people stealing and selling catalytic converters from the undersides of vehicles, a criminal operation that involved the exchange of some $545 million for scrap metal:

Cops love a good code name, and by the fall of 2022 the investigation in Tulsa had one: Operation Heavy Metal. In the Riverside precinct, officers began to joke that Kansas Core had never taken a day off, he was so obsessed. Someone posted a printout featuring a meme in which a wild-looking Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stands before a wall crowded with papers and lines, cigarette in hand. “Larceny from a vehicle?” they’d typed in. “You mean the greatest criminal conspiracy ever devised.”

Operation Heavy Metal now involved not just Homeland Security Investigations, but the IRS, the FBI and dozens of local police departments. Between manpower and geographic reach, some of Staggs’ veteran colleagues reckoned Camp 2 had launched the Tulsa PD’s largest investigation. By chance, law enforcement agents in California had been working a completely independent case involving buyers, which had also led them to DG. The investigations merged into one, soon becoming so unwieldy that agents had to gather in Philadelphia for three days to coordinate the endgame.

On the morning of Nov. 2, Jeremy Jones was in his office at JT Auto, next to Curtis Cores on Highway 51. “I was getting a cup of coffee,” he says. “I look out the window and something caught my eye—it was like a SWAT team. There’s a tank. There’s guys with assault rifles and military gear.” His first instinct was that Curtis had been secretly dealing drugs or guns. When he wandered out to talk to the cops and found out it was in fact the catalytic converter business they were taking down, “it did seem like a little overkill.”