Photo: hundreds of stolen catalytic converters
NOVATO — Marin County Sheriff’s Office deputies smashed a fencing operation involving thefts of thousands of catalytic converters. Two suspects were arrested, and more than 300 catalytic converters recovered.
Reports of catalytic converter thefts have been soaring statewide in recent months. Authorities attribute increasing thefts to skyrocketing prices of precious metals used in vehicle exhaust systems. Palladium and rhodium are in short supply, exacerbated by the pandemic, fueling a black market.
On March 24, deputies responded to a report that someone was cutting up auto parts at Novato Self Storage. They found a man and woman busily dismantling catalytic converters.
From the looks of the place, they evidently have been disassembling catalytic converters for some time. Moreover, they were unable to provide receipts required by law indicating the source of the catalytic converters.
Deputies requested assistance from a special Marin County Auto Theft Taskforce. It is comprised of investigators from the Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol.
Warrants were obtained to search the couple’s residence in Novato, and both their vehicles. Investigators subsequently found receipts for sales of more than 2,500 catalytic converters since January.
These catalytic converters were sold to a scrapyard in Southern California for several hundred thousand dollars. This may just be the tip of the iceberg, as the investigation is ongoing.
Deputies arrested 37-year-old Abner R. DeLeon-Cifuente and 28-year-old Elizabeth Herrera. They were booked at Marin County Jail, but they are no longer in custody.
DeLeon-Cifuente and Herrera each face open charges for possession of stolen property. In addition, they face charges for failure to maintain records for used catalytic converters, and dismantling vehicles without a