Police Catch Alleged Converter Thief

Written by Estero Bay News

January 17, 2022

Morro Bay Police with an assist from the Atascadero P.D. arrested an Oakland man on suspicion of stealing a slew of catalytic converters off parked cars in SLO County.

According to MBPD Cmdr. Amy Watkins at 2:26 a.m. Dec. 20, they were alerted to a report of an attempted theft of a car’s catalytic converter in Los Osos that was thwarted apparently by the car owner.

The alert came with a vehicle description and a few minutes later, at 2:45 a.m. a MBPD patrol unit spotted the car at South Bay Boulevard and Hwy 1, and tried to pull the vehicle over.

The driver did not yield and instead took off eastbound on Hwy 41 heading towards Atascadero.

MBPD radioed ahead to the APD, which deployed a spike strip on Morro Road (Hwy 41) near Portola Avenue. The spike strip disabled the car, which came to a stop and two of three suspects fled.

Officers arrested the one suspect that remained in the car but the other two escaped. Police charged the remaining suspect, Maxwell Steven Lopez Sosa, 22 of Oakland, with suspicion of Grand Theft, Tampering with a Motor Vehicle, and Failure to Yield, after they found some 15 catalytic converters in the trunk of the suspect vehicle. The other two suspects were not caught and the investigation continues.

“Morro Bay Police Department and other police agencies throughout SLO County,” Cmdr. Watkins said, “have been investigating several catalytic converter thefts during the past few weeks.”

Indeed, in just the past couple of weeks at least six catalytic converts were reported stolen in Morro Bay alone. The smog control devices contain small amounts of several precious metals — platinum, palladium, and rhodium — that can be extracted. 

Metal recyclers usually pay between $50-$250 for one, normally through muffler and auto repair shops, but the precious metals that come from hybrid vehicles can bring a thief up to $1,500 per catalytic converter.

So by that standard, the 15 converters police recovered with this single arrest, would be worth upwards of $24,000. 

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the Morro Bay Police Department (805) 772- 6225 or San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers at (805) 549-STOP. 

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