California police recover multiple caches of stolen catalytic converters, arrest 22

Stolen catalytic converters recovered in Los Angeles. L.A. Sheriff’s Department

As the theft of catalytic converters rises across the country, let’s hear it for the good guys. Last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested 19 people and recovered $750,000 worth of catalytic converters after serving warrants at four different locations. Several days later, San Bernardino police arrested three more suspects after a failed traffic stop led them to additional stolen converters.

According to Los Angeles television station KTLA 5, the L.A. warrants were tied to catalytic converter thefts in the Santa Clarita Valley and the surrounding area. In addition to the 19 arrests, Sheriff’s deputies recovered 250 catalytic converters, $100,000 in cash, and a handgun.

L.A. County Sgt. Keith Greene says that in Los Angeles County alone, reports of catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400 percent in 2020 over the previous year.

Catalytic converters are emissions-control devices designed to reduce toxic exhaust emissions. They have always been an easy target of enterprising thieves in search of precious metals, used in the converters as catalysts to aid the chemical breakdown of nitrogen oxide (NO2). However, with values of rhodium and palladium recently eclipsing that of gold, converter thefts are spiking.

The devices can be sawed from the underside of vulnerable automobiles within minutes. Among the prime targets are the first-generation Prius and the Ford F-250 pickup.

Catalytic converters - San Bernardino theft
Stolen catalytic converters recovered in San Bernardino, California, on March 13. San Bernardino Police Department

Three days after the Los Angeles arrests, a driver who fled a police traffic stop led San Bernardino officers to the discovery of 150 stolen catalytic converters in a nearby home, where they arrested three suspects believed to be part of what they called a “large-scale catalytic theft ring.” In addition to the catalytic converters, police found tools used for cutting metal and more than $180,000 in cash. The vehicle had also been stolen.

Arrested on suspicion of multiple felony charges were Anthony Andrade, 27; Julio Villalta-Maravilla, 27; and Isaac Anthony Guerra, 24.

To help keep your vehicle’s catalytic converter from being stolen, law enforcement suggests that you park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras, weld the bolts on your catalytic converter shut, engrave or etch the license plate number onto your catalytic converter, and always report suspicious activity.

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