Mesa police make 3 arrests in battle against catalytic converter thefts

Sep 23, 2021, 4:25 AM | Updated: Sep 27, 2021, 3:08 pm
A mechanic works on replacing a catalytic converter in Davie, Florida, in this 2009 file photo. (Ph...
A mechanic works on replacing a catalytic converter in Davie, Florida, in this 2009 file photo. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Mesa police said Wednesday they are working to combat a rise in catalytic converter thefts, with an undercover operation resulting in three arrests so far.

Mesa has seen 431 catalytic converter cases this year, up from 69 in 2020 and a total of just three over the previous two years, according to a press release.

The exhaust system components are being targeted because they contain valuable metals.

The Mesa Police Department and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office conducted Operation Heavy Metal during the summer and identified six suspects involved with the theft and illegal sale of catalytic converters.

Federico Guttierez, Christopher Frenci and Anthony Toledo were arrested and face a variety of counts, while charges are pending for three other suspects, police said.

(UPDATE: Mesa police told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Sept. 27 that Frenci has not been charged but could be. Police said prosecutors requested more information from detectives before they make their decision about whether to charge him.)

In one burglary at a Mesa auto recycler, 141 catalytic converters worth more than $40,000 were stolen and more than $50,000 in property was damaged.

In addition to investigative efforts, Mesa police held a two-day community event last week where they helped mark the catalytic converters in more than 250 vehicles to discourage theft and assist with tracking.

According to BeenVerified, catalytic converter thefts has been on the rise nationwide, with Arizona predicted to see an increase of about 370% in 2021, second only to Colorado.

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Mesa police make 3 arrests in battle against catalytic converter thefts