EDMONTON -- A man was charged after Edmonton police say he was involved in the theft of hundreds of catalytic converters.

The Edmonton Police Service began to investigate the "major theft ring" in March after investigators found people stealing catalytic converters from vehicles and selling them to one man.

The man, 24-year-old Tekie Awte, was seen buying the stolen catalytic converters in back alleys and parking lots around Edmonton, police said. The thieves were usually seen putting catalytic converters or duffle bags into the back of Awte's trucks.

The investigation led the EPS to a storage locker in northeast Edmonton, where police say Awte was storing the converters before selling them to recyclers.

Last week, investigators saw Awte load up a large trailer at the storage locker before he went west on Yellowhead Trail, police said. He was followed and taken into custody on Highway 16 near Spruce Grove.

The EPS searched the storage locker and found 462 catalytic converters. The sum has an estimated recycling value of approximately $300,000, police said.

Catalytic converters cost approximately $2,000 to replace, and EPS estimates that victims would have spent a total of around $900,000 to fix their vehicles.

Awte was charged with trafficking stolen property, possession of stolen property for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime and money laundering.

EPS say more than 1,000 catalytic converter thefts have been reported since October 2019.