The Consequences of Catalytic Convertor Thefts Are Becoming Deadly
Catalytic convertor thefts are on the rise—and apparently the costly metals found inside are precious enough to warrant risking one’s life for.
Unbeknownst to victims who are about to head off to work for the day, they start their car to find it has become extremely loud without the sound muffling device, while others come out to find a thief has been crushed under the car due to a failed jack stand.
That’s what happened when Anaheim police were called to the 1600 block of North Placentia Avenue early March 17, where they found a man wedged underneath a Toyota Prius, crushed to death by the weight of the vehicle while apparently attempting to steal the car’s catalytic convertor.
Three more deaths involving a catalytic converter theft occurred March 12, when two men inside a Dodge Ram 1500 truck that was being chased by police crashed into another vehicle, sending it through a block wall and landing upside down in a residential swimming pool.
Both men inside the truck, Joseph Mendoza, 24, and Sal Fernandez, 34, were pronounced dead when officers discovered them in the pool, as well as Michael Clugston, who was in the vehicle the truck slammed into before landing in the pool.
The driver’s body was reportedly pulled from the truck by police immediately after the crash, though the passenger’s body was not found inside the truck until it was pulled out of the pool nine hours after the crash.
After searching the destroyed truck, police found a catalytic convertor, a power saw, and a pistol. Mendoza and Fernandez were originally being chased when police saw them speeding through a parking lot and they failed to pull over.
The trend of catalytic converter thefts is not unique to Orange County.
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant March 17 on a resident they suspected of running a catalytic convertor fencing operation.
After searching the home, police said they found approximately 400 catalytic converters worth an estimated $400,000, as well as a stolen vehicle on the property.
Convertor thefts continue to be on the rise in Orange County, where reported stolen catalytic converter thefts totaled 86 last November, 77 last December, and 108 in January, according to latest figures from the OCSD.
In Orange County, police have not found more than a few stolen converters in any given single bust, an OCSD spokesperson said.