Catalytic converter thefts net three arrests | News
Two Riverside County men were arrested Wednesday morning and a third man was arrested May 19 during a Chino, Riverside and Corona police department joint investigation into the thefts of more than 300 catalytic converters.
“Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals used to make emission devices,” Chino Police Sgt. Mike Johnson said. “Thieves sell stolen catalytic converters to recycling centers that extract the precious metals.”
Catalytic converters contain three metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – and could net thieves between $300 and $500 depending on the make and model of the car.
Investigators on Wednesday arrested Jose Castaneda, 21, of Jurupa Valley on suspicion of being a buyer of stolen catalytic converters and Juan Renobato, 30, of Riverside on suspicion of possession of an illegal weapon. Police said the illegal weapon was a ghost gun.
On May 19, investigators arrested Jose Ramirez, 26, of San Jacinto on suspicion of possession of stolen property.
Chino police, along with Corona and Riverside police officers served search warrants at four Riverside County locations—two in Jurupa Valley and two in Riverside, Sgt. Johnson said.
“Chino police investigators have been actively pursuing leads from these thefts to identify local buyers of stolen catalytic converters,” Sgt. Johnson said. “In April of this year, investigators identified Mr. Castaneda as a possible buyer of stolen catalytic converters.”
Mr. Castaneda was seen loading catalytic converters into a trailer, and that trailer was taken to a home in the 1600 block of Park Meadows Drive in San Jacinto, the sergeant said.
At that location, investigators found more than 300 cut catalytic converters.
One additional suspected stolen catalytic converter was found at a home in the 4100 block of Jenkins Lane in Riverside.
Another ghost gun, which is given that moniker because it does not have a registered serial number, was seized, Sgt. Johnson said.
“Through the leads we developed in the actual stealing of the catalytic converters, we identified the suspects mainly through suspects we have already arrested and different intelligence on where they were going,” Sgt. Johnson said.
Mr. Castaneda is being held on $10,000 bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on charges of fabrication and construction of a firearm and receiving known stolen property.
He is expected to appear in Riverside Hall of Justice on Friday, June 3, according to Riverside County court records.
Mr. Renobato was also booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center.
He is being held on $50,000 bail on a charge of possession of an assault weapon.
He will appear in court on Wednesday, Aug. 17, court records show.
Jail records for Mr. Ramirez could not be located.
“The City of Chino, like many Southern California cities, has seen a rise in the theft of catalytic converters over the past year and a half,” Sgt. Johnson said.
In 2020, more than 120 reports of stolen catalytic converters were reported to the Chino Police Department.
Since January 2021, which includes the first five months of 2022, that number has increased to more than 500 in Chino, Sgt. Johnson said.
Six businesses in Chino offer residents free license plate etching on their catalytic converters to increase the chances the converter could be returned to their owner if stolen.
They are Star Tech, 14602 Central Ave., Auto Technik Carcare (5260 Las Flores Drive), A-1 Auto Expert (14580 Central Ave.), Chino Valley Muffler and Performance (5195 G St.), Chino Tire and Muffler (13552 Central Ave. Unit C), and The Care Shop (5216 Bell Court).
Chino Hills has started an etching program. For information, call the City of Chino Hills at (909) 364-2600.
Anyone with information on catalytic converters thefts in Chino can call Sgt. Johnson at (909) 334-3167 or email email@example.com.
In Chino Hills, call the Chino Hills Police Department at (909) 364-2000.