Four Arrested for Catalytic Converter Theft Near Virginia Avenue Park

Four suspects arrested in connection to early morning robbery December 9

By Sam CAtanzaro

Santa Monica police recently arrested four suspects wanted for stealing a catalytic converter from a Prius parked near Virginia Avenue Park. When making the arrest, police located four additional Prius catalytic converters in one of the suspect’s car.

According to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), on December 9 around 2:10 am, officers responded to the 2200 block of 22nd Street, near Virginia Avenue Park. The 911 caller reported that several suspects had just removed the catalytic converter from his sister’s 2010 Toyota Prius. The suspects fled into two automobiles: a dark blue Honda Accord and a dark green or gray 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 SMPD said. “The reporting party was able to positively identify the Honda as having been involved in the commission of the theft.”

Inside the Honda – occupied by 23-year-old Long Beach resident Jose Izguerra Duarte and 19-year-old LA resident Michael Pedraja – officers located four catalytic converters from Prius vehicles, a Daytona jack, a Milwaukee reciprocating saw with a 6″ blade , additional 6” saw blades, an electric impact driver and three jack stands. Officers also found a replica handgun on the passenger side floorboard.

The lead vehicle, the Charger, was driven by 21-year-old Gardena resident Jasenda Argueta with 19-year-old Antioch resident Victor Duarte Macia 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,” the SMPD added.

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.

Anyone with any additional information about this incident or subjects is encouraged to contact Detective Jauregui at (310) 458-8944, the Criminal Investigations Division at (310) 458-8451, or the SMPD’s Watch Commander (24 hours) at (310) 458 -8426.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recently released a report showing catalytic converter theft has spiked due to three precious metals found inside the converters: palladium, rhodium and platinum. An ounce of rhodium costs roughly $15,000. For comparison, an ounce of gold costs around $1,800.

According to a recent study from Carfax, the following are the 10-most targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft in California: 2001-21 Toyota Prius; 1985-2021 Ford F Series; 1989-2020 Honda Accord; 1990-2022 Ford Econoline; 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado; 2007-20 Subaru Outback; 2007-17 Jeep Patriot; 2003-11 Honda Element; 1998-2020 Subaru Forester; 1995-2021 Toyota Tacoma.

“The West has many of the same top targets as the national list, but the Prius sits atop the list instead of the Ford F-Series pickup, no doubt because the hybrid is incredibly popular in areas – such as California – with high gas prices and strict emissions laws,” Carfax wrote.

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