BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Catalytic converter thieves typically only keep the pricey item a short time before selling them.
Given the number of catalytic converters found on property belonging to Francisco Valencia, he’s a major buyer, according to police reports filed in Superior Court.
Valencia, 27, has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of owning a chop shop, possessing a stolen vehicle and receiving stolen property, among other charges.
Police searched his south Bakersfield home in February and found 63 stolen catalytic converters and 3 pounds of marijuana, court filings say. Valencia had $3,000 in $100 bills on him — significant because officers had learned Valencia only used $100 to pay for the items, the filings say.
Inside the home investigators also located battery-powered reciprocal saws, Sawzall blades and hydraulic jacks, reports say.
In March, investigators searched Morales Auto & Truck Mechanic on East Terrace Way and found 43 catalytic converters, according to the filings. The reports list Valencia as in charge of the property.
Three stolen vehicles were located: a 2014 Honda Accord, 1993 Toyota pickup and 2010 Chevy Equinox.
Catalytic converters were scattered over the property and found in a tool box and plastic storage shelf in a cargo trailer, according to the filings.
Valencia told investigators he had legally purchased the exhaust emission control devices, but several had exhaust pipe exposed on their ends and what appeared to be rough cuts indicating they weren’t removed by a legitimate business, the filings say.
As they searched Valencia while placing him under arrest, officers found a baggie containing suspected methamphetamine in his pocket, the filings say. Valencia told detectives he had been using meth for two years.
The cost of replacing a catalytic converter is at minimum about $1,000 and, based on make and model of vehicle, can soar upward of $2,000. Police said thefts have been so widespread it can take months to get a replacement.
Valencia is due back in court Thursday.