Los Angeles police say they have arrested two men who may be connected with the thefts of 60 or more “catalytic converters” from cars and trucks near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other areas over the last few months.
Police arrested Juan Calderon, 28, and Christopher Williams, 36, in the early afternoon Friday, September 4th after they were seen allegedly removing a catalytic converter from a parked car on the USC campus. The arrests were made with coordinated efforts between campus police officers from UCLA, USC, several Los Angeles police patrol divisions and an Air Support Division helicopter.
Calderon and Williams are suspected of targeting high profile vehicles such as trucks and sport utility vehicles due to their easy access to the exhaust system where catalytic converters are located, police said. It is believed that the suspects allegedly used cordless power tools to cut or unbolt the catalytic converter from the vehicle, police said.
Some metal dealers buy the catalytic converters because they contain small amounts of valuable metal such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, police said.
A police department spokes-man noted that the LAX area seemed to be hit especially hard with the incidents.
When officers assigned to the LAPD Pacific division-LAX Immediate Response Team and Airport Crimes Investigative Unit began an investigation, they learned that other cities and university campuses in the Los Angeles area had also been investigating similar incidents targeting catalytic converters, police said.
With the assistance from the UCLA and USC police departments, Pacific-LAX detectives were led to a common suspect vehicle description, a dark colored 1990s BMW 745.
Calderon is being held without bail and Williams is being held on $20,000 bail.
Detectives investigating the case are continuing to look for additional victims. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Pacific-LAX Detective Axel DeLeon, at (310) 577-3473. During off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour, toll free number at (877) LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).