Deputies: Metal theft suspects caught red-handed

March 28, 2011 8:36:43 PM PDT
Deputy constables are searching for crime victims. They say they've caught a pair of thieves in the act and now they're trying to find the people to which the property belongs.

The thieves were after the precious metals found within a catalytic converter -- to cash them in at metal scrapyards. But thanks to residents calling in suspicious activity, responding deputies discovered a carload of evidence.

The bounty of metal thieves and the tools of their trade crowded an evidence table in a Pct. 4 station.

"The pipe is pretty thick on this end of the pipe, so it's easier for them to actually unbolt it," Harris County Pct. 4 Capt. Wally Wieghat said.

About 2am last week, residents on Water Point Trail in Atasocita called police about noises and men possibly jumping fences.

Police arrived, stopped a car driving slowly and quickly noticed five catalytic converters littering the back seat floorboard.

Atasocita resident Jim Bishop says someone went through his pickup around the same time.

"I had my truck out on the road one night and a left the door open; I got up the next morning and it was gone through," he said.

Milton Garcia, 21, and 18-year-old Maynor Arias were arrested.

Along with the catalytic converters, deputies discovered a reciprocating saw used to cut through one side of the exhaust and wrenches to unbolt the other side.

As investigators went driveway to driveway checking underneath cars, they also found one wrench still attached to a converter.

"As you can see, it still has a bolt stuck in the socket where they were in the process of removing it when they apparently observed the police officer approaching," Wieghat said.

Both Garcia and Arias were booked into the county jail. Deputies say they also face deportation for being here illegally from Honduras.

Meanwhile, victims are being forced to reach into the pockets for repairs.

"It's just a shame. People work so hard for things and then they come by and most probably ? maybe they get $50 out of it and cost the owner a thousand," Bishop said.

Deputies are still looking to return the stolen catalytic converters to their rightful owners and ask any potential victims in the Atasocita/Kingwood area, to call the Harris County Pct. 4 Constable's Office.