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Deputies arrest four for stealing catalytic converters

• Officials say car part in high demand for precious metals.

Posted: April 12, 2008 1:24 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
Two men and two women were arrested in Val Verde Friday in connection with allegedly stealing four catalytic converters from vehicles.

Miguel Haro, 29, of Los Angeles; Courtney Dominish, 27, of Hawthorne; Manuel Chavez, 31, of South Gate and Patricia Medina, 33, of Huntington Park were arrested and booked at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on a felony charge of grand theft, according to a sheriff's report.

Since March 1, there have been 15 catalytic converters reported stolen in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to information from the sheriff's station.

Around 2:15 a.m. Friday, a Val Verde resident awoke to the sound of a "metal on metal" sound coming from in front of the house.

Her son apparently saw a person tampering with their vehicle outside the home, according to the report.

After notifying a relative and the sheriff's station, the family member drove to the home and apparently saw the suspect's vehicle driving away.

According to the sheriff's release, the relative was able to provide a description to the responding deputies, who then matched the description to the vehicle.

The deputies apparently found four stolen catalytic converters in the suspect's vehicle, one of which belonged to the Val Verde resident.

The three other victims have not yet been identified.

The four suspects are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, and are each being held at the sheriff's station in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Sheriff's Sgt. James Anderson said thieves who steal catalytic converters end up recycling them for profits because they contain precious metals.

He believes the thefts have been occurring in the local area for at least a year.

Steve Mazor, manager of the Automotive Research Center for AAA of Southern California, said catalytic converters, found on the undercarriage of a vehicle, are the primary emissions reduction system for the entire vehicle.

Mazor said every car is equipped with a catalytic converter and some vehicles will have up to four.

Because the converters contain precious metals, including platinum, Mazor said thieves will end up selling them on the black market.

Although a car can still run without a converter, Mazor said it would create a "really loud" sound and the car would become a "gross polluter."

Replacing the converters can cost anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.

Mazor recommends people utilize "good common sense" when protecting their cars. He suggests motorists park their vehicle in a visible and well-lit area. When at home, Mazor said the car should be kept in the garage.

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