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Off-Duty Officer Helps Nab Catalytic Converter Thieves

A trio of suspected catalytic converter thieves are under arrest after an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer spotted them acting suspiciously near his home in Santa Barbara.

30-year-old Herbert Hernandez, 20-year-old Jesus Alberto Ortiz and 29-year-old Angel Aguilera were arrested on Saturday for the felonies of conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft, and attempted grand theft and the misdemeanors of possession of burglary tools and vehicle tampering.

On December 8, around 2:45 a.m., the off-duty officer spotted a gold Toyota Corolla on the street near his home. Concerned that the occupants of the vehicle might be involved in a crime, the CHP officer called the Highway Patrol. Two CHP officers responded and saw the car in question on the 4000 block of Otono Drive. When the officers arrived, the suspect vehicle sped away, driving on the wrong side of the street and committing several other traffic violations. The officers were able to follow the car and stopped it on the 200 block of Lee Drive. The officers discovered that Hernandez was an unlicensed driver and saw that the men had of a variety of tools in their possession. The officers requested that the Santa Barbara Police Department assist with their investigation. Santa Barbara police found a Toyota T-100 truck parked on the 4000 block of Otono Drive with its catalytic converter partially removed and a pipe cutter still attached. They believe that the suspects were in the process of stealing this catalytic converter when they were interrupted by the CHP. Police also searched the route the suspects traveled while being followed by the CHP and recovered several items the suspected thieves apparently threw out of the vehicle, including another catalytic converter, several bindles of methamphetamine, and tools.

Detectives interviewed the suspects at the Santa Barbara Police Department . Ortiz and Aguilera confessed that the trio traveled to Santa Barbara from their homes in Van Nuys for the purpose of stealing catalytic converters and selling them for profit. Later that morning, a police officer responded to the 400 block of Via Rosa on a report of a stolen catalytic converter. The victim discovered that the catalytic converter from her Toyota 4-Runner had been stolen when she started her car that morning. After taking her car to a mechanic she was informed that replacing her catalytic converter would cost $1,400. Detectives met the victim at a repair shop. They compared the vehicle’s exhaust system with the catalytic converter recovered from the early morning crime scene, and say it was apparent the catalytic converter had been stolen from this victim’s car.

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