Dec 9, 2012 4:20 PM by Kathrene Herndon, KSBY News

Suspected catalytic converter thieves caught in Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Police Department says multiple people responsible for stealing catalytic converters in the city have been caught.

They say Saturday, Dec. 8, around 2:45 a.m., an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer saw a suspicious vehicle in his neighborhood.

They say he then called CHP, who responded to the 4000 block of Ontono Drive where they saw a gold Toyota Corolla.

Officers say when CHP approached, the suspect started speeding as he drove away on the wrong side of the street and committed several other traffic violations in the process.

The officers were able to stop the Corolla in the 200 block of Lee Drive.

They say the three people in the car were Herbert Hernandez, 30, Jesus Alberto Ortiz, 20, and Angel Aguilera, 29, all from Van Nuys.

Officers say Hernandez was the driver, and is unlicensed.

They say all three men appeared to possess many tools, including two-way radios, that could be used to commit these types of thefts.

CHP officers say they asked the Santa Barbara Police Department to assist with the investigation.

During the investigation, officers say they found a truck in the 4000 block of Ontono Drive with its catalytic converter partially removed with a pipe cutter still attached to it.

They say they also recovered several items along the route the suspects traveled that they believe were discarded by the three men.

The items include another catalytic converter, methamphetamine, and tools.

They later found the car that catalytic converter belonged to.

Detectives say Ortiz and Aguilera admitted to stealing the catalytic converters in hopes of selling them.

All three men were booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft, and attempted grand theft and possession of burglary tools and vehicle tampering.

Their bail was set at $20,000.



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