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Four Arrested in Catalytic Converter Theft
By Jorge Casuso
December 9, 2022 -- Four suspects were arrested for grand theft early Friday morning after stealing a catalytic converter from a Prius parked in the Pico Neighborhood.
Officers responded to a radio call around 2:10 a.m. reporting the theft on the 2200 block of 22nd street near Virginia Avenue Park, police said.
"The 911 caller reported that several subjects had just removed the catalytic converter from his sister’s 2010 Prius," said Lt. Erika Aklufi.
Within minutes, police spotted the suspects -- who fled in a dark blue Honda Accord and a dark green or grey Dodge Charger -- "driving in a convoy" on Oak Street, Aklufi said.
Officers stopped the vehicles and detained the occupants without incident, she said.
"The reporting party was able to positively identify the Honda as having been involved in the commission of the theft."
Police searched the Honda -- which was occupied by Jose Izguerra Duarte, 23, of Long Beach and Michael Pedraja, 19, of Los Angeles -- and found four catalytic converters from Prius vehicles.
They also found tools commonly used in catalytic converter thefts --
In addition, officers found a replica handgun on the passenger side floorboard, Aklufi said.
Inside the Charger -- which was driven by Jasenda Argueta, 21, of Gardena with Victor Duarte Macias, 19, of Antioch in the passenger seat -- officers found a Milwaukee power tool battery and the handle to a floor jack.
All four suspects were booked into the Santa Monica Jail for Grand Theft, police said. Argueta was also booked for a Health & Safety Code violation for drug possession.
Over the past five years, catalytic converter thefts have driven a surge in the theft of auto parts in Santa Monica, police said.
The devices -- which convert toxic gases into less toxic pollutants -- contain platinum and other precious metals that are highly sought by scrap metal dealers.
Thieves can make anywhere from $25 to $300 for a standard catalytic converter and as much as $1,400 from hybrid vehicles, which require the use of more precious metals, according to experts.
Using a battery operated power saw, a thief can cut out a catalytic converter from under a vehicle within minutes, police officials said.
According to a report published in Carfax this summer, the Toyota Prius was the most targeted car in the western states for catalytic converter theft, including California.
Anyone with more information about Friday's theft or the suspects involved should call Detective Jauregui at 310-458-8944, the Criminal Investigations Division at 310-458-8451, or the Santa Monica Police Department’s Watch Commander (24 hours) at 310-458-8426.
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