Two men suspected of stealing catalytic converters from parked cars, leading authorities on a high-speed chase and then crashing into a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle last week appeared in court Tuesday.
The two men have been identified as Vue Xiong, 31, of San Luis Obispo, and Fong Vang, 38, of Merced.
Xiong and Vang were arrested last Saturday after the vehicle they were in crashed into a Sheriff’s Department vehicle that was involved in an unrelated pursuit.
Prior to the crash, authorities had been pursuing their vehicle on the 5 Freeway after a report of several catalytic converter thefts in the Santa Clarita Valley. The pursuit was ultimately called off as the van approached dangerous speeds, LASD officials said at the time.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office released new details about the arrest, including that their vehicle ran a red light before crashing into the deputy’s cruiser, and that eight catalytic converters were recovered from inside the van.
Xiong and Vang appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court and were each charged with three felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of attempted grand theft, the DA’s Office said.
A third person was detained at the scene of the crash and was transported to the hospital for treatment. They were not identified and no information was released about any charges they may face, although they were referred to as a suspect in the case.
District Attorney George Gascón said his office is working with law enforcement to prosecute catalytic converter thieves to the fullest extent of the law, but warned that the thefts are “notoriously difficult” to prosecute.
Gascón highlighted his sponsorship of California Senate Bill 986 which would prevent car dealers and retailers from selling new vehicles unless the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) are etched onto the vehicle part. The bill also would prohibit recyclers from paying cash for recycled converters, the DA’s office said.
This particular case continues to be investigated by the Sheriff’s Department.