Two charged with catalytic converter theft after crashing into LASD vehicle
SAN FERNANDO, Calif. - Two men from Central California have been charged with stealing catalytic converters and then trying to flee before crashing into a sheriff's vehicle in Valencia, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.
Vue Xiong, 31, of San Luis Obispo, and Fong Vang, 38, of Merced, each face three felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of attempted grand theft, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Police were called after the two men, along with a third suspect, were allegedly seen stealing catalytic converters Saturday in Santa Clarita, according to the District Attorney's Office.
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The men attempted to flee from police as patrol vehicles followed them, with the van finally coming to a stop after running a red light and crashing into the sheriff's SUV in Valencia, according to the District Attorney's Office.
All three suspects tried to flee on foot, but two of them were in "too much pain" and were apprehended immediately, according to Lt. Brandon Barkley of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Santa Clarita Valley station.
The third suspect was "located in a tree at a nearby house," Barkley said.
Eight catalytic converters were found in the van, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The name of the third suspect and the status of any case against him were not immediately available.
Xiong and Vang were taken into custody Saturday, but Vang was released from custody Monday, according to county jail records.
In a statement announcing the case, District Attorney George Gascón said his office is "working collaboratively with law enforcement to prosecute catalytic converter thefts," but noted that the cases are "notoriously difficult to solve and prosecute."
Gascón joined Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore in February to call on state legislators to approve a measure aimed at curbing the theft of catalytic converters by requiring auto dealers to engrave the vehicle identification number on the devices on new vehicles and by banning cash sales for used catalytic converters.
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Gascón — who last October called on auto manufacturers to work with him to develop solutions to the rising theft of catalytic converters — noted that thefts of the devices have been on the rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and that California is among the top five states for such crimes.
The measure, introduced by state Sens. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, and Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, would bar auto dealers and retailers from selling new vehicles unless the vehicle's identification number has been engraved or etched onto the catalytic converter, and ban the cash sales of used catalytic converters by requiring recyclers to accept only traceable payment methods such as a credit card.
Moore noted in February that one in five thefts from a vehicle in Los Angeles is a catalytic converter, noting that it has become a "very attractive market" for thieves and a "difficult challenge" for law enforcement to deter and hold those responsible accountable.
Catalytic converters — which are used to turn hazardous exhaust from a vehicle into less harmful gases — are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium and can fetch up to $1,200 each, according to the District Attorney's Office.
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