Catalytic Converter Thieves Arrested
updated: Dec 09, 2012, 12:01 PM
Thanks to an observant off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, a crew of
catalytic converter thieves has been caught. Herbert Hernandez (age 30), Jesus
Alberto Ortiz (age 20), and Angel Aguilera (age 29) were arrested 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. The men are from Van Nuys, California.
On December 8, 2012 at approximately 2:47 a.m., an off-duty California Highway
Patrol officer who lives in Santa Barbara's North End observed a suspicious
occupied vehicle, a gold Toyota Corolla, on the street near his home. Concerned
that the occupants of the vehicle might be involved in crime, the CHP officer
called the Highway Patrol to send officers to check the area. Shortly
thereafter two CHP officers in a marked vehicle responded and saw the suspect
vehicle on the 4000 block of Otono Drive. When the officers arrived on-scene
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 suspect vehicle and ultimately stopped it on the 200 block of Lee Drive.
The vehicle was driven by Hernandez with Ortiz and Aguilera as passengers. The
CHP officers discovered that Hernandez was an unlicensed driver and saw that the
trio appeared to be in possession of a variety of tools that could be used in
the commission of burglaries, including two-way radios. Believing that the
three might have been involved in a theft related crime when they were
contacted, the CHP officers requested that Santa Barbara Police Department
personnel assist with the investigation.
Sergeant Kenny Kushner, Officer Gary Gaston, Officer Charlie Venable, Officer
Kyle Crooks, and Detective Rashun Drayton responded. A Toyota T-100 truck
parked on the 4000 block of Otono Drive was located with its catalytic converter
partially removed and a pipe cutter still attached. It appeared that the
suspects were in the process of stealing this catalytic converter when they were
interrupted by the CHP. The route the suspects travelled before being stopped
was searched and several items that they apparently discarded as they drove away
were recovered; including another catalytic converter, several bindles of
methamphetamine, and tools. Detective Drayton interviewed the suspects at the
Santa Barbara Police Department and Ortiz and Aguilera confessed that the trio
went to Santa Barbara from Van Nuys for the purpose of stealing catalytic
converters and selling them for profit.
Later, at 8:40 a.m., Officer Andy Freytag responded to the 400 block of Via Rosa
on a report of a stolen catalytic converter. The victim there 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 $1400.00. Detective
Drayton met the victim at Firestone at 3948 State Street where her car was
raised on a lift and examined. Upon comparing the vehicle's exhaust system with
the catalytic converter recovered from the early morning crime scene, it was
apparent the catalytic converter had been stolen from this victim's car. The
catalytic converter was returned to the victim and it was reinstalled in her
vehicle by Firestone for $20.00.
Hernandez, Ortiz, and Aguilera were booked at Santa Barbara County Jail on the
aforementioned charges with a bail amount of $20,000.00.
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