SLO police arrest Northern California residents for catalytic converter thefts

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Following a tip from an alert resident early Wednesday morning, San Luis Obispo police reportedly caught three thieves from Northern California with four stolen catalytic converters. 

Shortly after 1 a.m., a 911 caller reported hearing what sounded like metal being cut in the 100 block of Mustang Drive. The witness reported seeing a dark minivan in the area with a cargo rack on the roof. The individual suspected the incident was related to recent catalytic converter thefts, police said.

An officer arrived in the area, located the minivan and stopped it. Three suspects were inside the vehicle. 

Police searched the van and found three catalytic converters, as well as tools used for removing them from vehicles. The suspects admitted to earlier stealing the catalytic converters,police said.

Investigators later located two more catalytic converters at a local hotel. The suspects admitted to stealing those two converters in Monterey County, according to police.

Police identified the suspects as Clearlake Oaks resident Samantha Chavez, 35, Concord resident Eric Staudinger, 33, and Pleasant Hill resident Nicholas Vanbuskirk, 31. Officers booked the suspects in the San Luis Obispo County Jail on charges of grand theft during a state of emergency, conspiracy, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools and vehicle tampering.

None of the suspects are listed on the county sheriff’s office website as currently being in custody.

An investigation into the case is ongoing, and police are trying to locate the owners of the catalytic converters found in the hotel. Anyone who has information about the case is asked to contact Detective Benedetti at (805) 594-8060.

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