On December 14th, 2021

BAR assists San Jose PD with Operation Cat Scratch Thiever 15 arrested in stolen catalytic converter ring

“Catalytic converter thieves wreak havoc in our communities, so this is a very welcomed operation. By calling upon the resources available to them, including the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, San Jose police officers and detectives likely made a big dent in this crime that impacts all of us.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona.

SAN JOSE - On December 13, 2021, the San Jose Police Department announced the results of a six- month operation it called Operation Cat Scratch Thiever, which targeted catalytic converter thefts in the city of San Jose. The investigation was the result of an increase in catalytic converter thefts in 2020 and 2021. The operation targeted prolific catalytic converter thieves and the illegal underground market that has fueled the crime trend. Fifteen suspects were identified and arrested. Multiple search warrants were served during the course of the investigation. Detectives recovered:

• illegal weapons,
• more than $50,000 in cash,
• and more than 1,000 catalytic converters that are believed to have been stolen from vehicles throughout the Bay Area.

In addition, police shut down three San José businesses that were suspected of knowingly purchasing stolen catalytic converters from street criminals.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals that can be extracted and sold and are therefore targeted by thieves. A typical theft involves lifting a parked car with a jack and cutting out the converter with a cordless saw. The theft takes minutes but causes thousands of dollars' worth of damage to victim vehicles. Stolen catalytic converters are often sold on the black market to illegal fencing operations for hundreds of dollars.

The following were arrested:

# SUSPECT ADDRESS AGE
 1.)  Joe Chen  San José Resident 81 Years
 2.)  William Collier  San José Resident 54 Years
 3.)  Noe Antonio De La O Ramirez  San José Resident 39 Years
 4.)  Robert Frank  San José Resident 52 Years
 5.)  David Leaf  San José Resident 29 Years
 6.)  Robert Lee  San José Resident 29 Years
 7.)  Jorge Omar Flores-Meza  San José Resident 25 Years
 8.)  Noah Muchera  San José Resident 58 Years
 9.)  Waiyaki Muchera  San José Resident 22 Years
 10.)  Casandra Ochoa  San José Resident 37 Years
 11.)  Mario Zarate Sanchez  San José Resident 49 Years
 12.)  Godofredo Lopez Serrano  San José Resident 47 Years
 13.)  Jeffrey Smith  San José Resident 36 Years
 14.)  Alton Walker  San José Resident 49 Years
 15.)  Lacey Westgate  San José Resident 36 Years

 

According to the San Jose Police Department, since the start of the pandemic, the City of San Jose has experienced an increase in catalytic converter thefts. The thefts have become increasingly brazen and suspects are often armed with guns. Suspects have shot victims and witnesses who have interrupted the thefts and in San Jose a catalytic converter theft has been linked to at least one homicide.

Suspects have been charged with crimes ranging from grand theft to receiving stolen property and from assault with a deadly weapon to possession of illegal weapons. Detectives also shut down three businesses that appeared to cater to thieves, often purchasing cut catalytic converters with no questions asked. Those businesses are being referred to the San José City Attorney’s Office.

SJPD acknowledged the invaluable assistance provided by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Automotive Repair, and Copart Inc.

 

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