By JOSH FRIEDMAN
After being tipped off by alert residents Monday night, San Luis Obispo police officers caught a pair of thieves from Merced with eight stolen catalytic converters.
Residents on Devaul Ranch Road reported hearing strange noises near their Honda Priuses. Residents also observed two males leaving the area in a silver Prius, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
Officers arrived in the area, but did not find the suspects’ car. Shortly afterwards, an officer spotted a silver Prius near Marsh and Higuera streets and stopped it.
When the officer contacted the suspects, he found eight catalytic converters and a jack and tools used to steal the converters, according to police.
Officers arrested the suspects, Vue Xiong, 30, and Gary Holley Lee, 26, on charges of grand theft, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of burglary tools, vehicle tampering and drug charges.
Police booked Xiong and Lee in San Luis Obispo County Jail. Neither of the suspects currently remain in custody, according to the county sheriff’s office website.
On Wednesday, police returned several of the catalytic converters to the owners of the Priuses from which Xiong and Lee allegedly stole them. Officers thanked the residents who were quick to report suspicious activity that they heard and saw.
Previously, in February, officers caught three thieves from Northern California as they were stealing catalytic converters in San Luis Obispo. The thieves admitted to stealing two catalytic converters each in SLO and in Monterey County, according to police.
In late March, officers said there had already been 73 catalytic converter thefts in San Luis Obispo this year. Priuses have been common a common target for the catalytic converter thieves.