A driver who fled a police traffic stop led San Bernardino officers to the location of 150 stolen catalytic converters, resulting in the arrest of three men believed to be part of a “large-scale catalytic theft ring,” police said Saturday.
Officers tried to stop the vehicle about 1:45 p.m. Friday, but the car didn’t yield. Police tracked it down to 1154 N. Barton Street, where they discovered it was a sub-plated stolen vehicle, the San Bernardino Police Department said in a news release.
While searching the area, detectives found approximately 150 stolen catalytic converters at the home, in addition to tools used for cutting metal and more than $180,000 in cash.
A photo released by police showed a large pile of catalytic converters in a living room.
Anthony Andrade and Julio Villalta-Maravilla, both 27, as well as Isaac Anthony Guerra, 24, were all arrested on suspicion of multiple felony charges, police said.
“The three suspects are believed to be involved in a large-scale catalytic theft ring,” Police Department said.
The arrests in San Bernardino come as officials in neighboring Los Angeles County report a spike in thefts of catalytic converters from cars throughout the region.
In the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction alone, reports of catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the agency.
On Wednesday, 19 people were arrested and $750,000 worth of catalytic converters were recovered in an operation targeting several locations in L.A., officials said.
Thieves target the vehicle exhaust emission control device because it contains precious metals and can be scrapped for profit, officials said.