Theft: Several catalytic converters were recovered this week. Courtesy photo

Officials are using the recent arrest of a group of catalytic converter thieves to remind residents thefts of the car parts are on the rise.

On Dec. 9, at approximately 2:10 a.m., SMPD officers responded to the 2200 block of 22nd Street regarding a Grand Theft Just Occurred radio call. The 911 caller reported that several subjects had just removed the catalytic converter from his sister’s 2010 Prius. The suspects fled in two automobiles: a dark blue Honda Accord and a dark green or grey Dodge Charger.

Within minutes, officers located the cars driving in a convoy on Oak Street. Both vehicles were stopped and the subjects detained without incident.

The witness identified the Honda as involved in the theft.

Inside the Honda, occupied by Jose Izguerra Duarte (age 23) of Long Beach and Michael Pedraja (age 19) of Los Angeles, officers located the following property: four catalytic converters from Prius vehicles, a Daytona jack with the handle, a Milwaukee reciprocating saw with a 6″ saw blade, additional 6″ saw blades, an electric impact driver, and three jack stands. In addition, officers located a replica handgun on the passenger side floorboard.

The lead vehicle, the Charger, was driven by subject Jasenda Argueta (age 21) of Gardena with Victor Duarte Macias (age 19) of Antioch in the passenger seat. Officers located in the vehicle a Milwaukee power tool battery and the handle to a floor jack. During a jail search, officers found in Argueta’s wallet a white, powdered substance preliminarily identified as cocaine.

All four suspects were booked into the Santa Monica Jail for Grand Theft. Argueta was also booked for a Health & Safety Code violation for drug possession.

Officers said over the past few weeks, catalytic converters theft has been on the rise, not only in the City of Santa Monica, but nationwide. While one of the most targeted vehicles has been the Toyota Prius, all vehicles made after 1975 are required by law to have a converter and are subject to potential theft.

SMPD said drivers can take steps to prevent theft including:

To help prevent catalytic converter theft, please follow these tips:

  1. Always park in well-lit areas or within your garage if possible.
  2. At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close to the entrance of the building or where there’s a lot of traffic.
  3. Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle’s frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
  4. Check out the different types of catalytic converter theft deterrent systems at your local auto parts store or online.

Anyone with any additional information pertaining to this incident or subjects is encouraged to contact Detective Jauregui at 310-458-8944, the Criminal Investigations Division at 310-458-8451, or the Santa Monica Police Department’s Watch Commander (24 hours) at 310-458-8427.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...