Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Men charged in connection to theft of catalytic converters

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Two Baltimore men have been charged in connection with the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles in auto repair shop parking lots in Rockville.

Montgomery County Police arrested Wesley Shears, 41, and Leo Griffith, 54, on March 20 after officers on routine patrol watched them remove a catalytic converter, police reported.

During a search of the men, police found 12 more catalytic converters in the bed of the green 1999 Ford Ranger pickup truck they were driving, police said. Police also found two cordless power saws, eight extra batteries for the saws and flashlights, police reported.

Shears and Griffith were charged with theft scheme of more than $500 and theft of more than $500.

‘‘All 13 catalytic converters were stolen from vehicles parked in parking lots for various automobile repair shops,” Lucille Baur, county police spokeswoman, said.

A catalytic converter is a device that converts harmful pollutants into less harmful emission before released from the vehicle. Police said part of the device is made of platinum that can be sold at scrap yards.

The police officers watched Shears and Griffith drive to the dead end of the 7400 block of Westmore Drive and park, according to police. The officers saw Shears get out of his car, crawl under a truck and heard the sound of a power tool. Shears then crawled out from under the truck, placed an object in the bed of the truck and drove away.

The police officers stopped the truck at North Stonestreet Avenue and Park Road and searched the vehicle.

When police searched vehicles parked at the auto repair shops along Dover Road, they found that the catalytic converters had been cut off 12 of them, police reported.

Shears, of the 1800 block of Cover Street, was also found with ‘‘a quantity of marijuana” and charged with possession and possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. He is free on a $15,000 bond.

Griffith, of the 1800 block of McHenry Street, is being held at the Clarksburg Correctional Facility on a $25,000 bond.

Police are also looking for more information about eight thefts of catalytic converters in Silver Spring between Feb. 29 and March 21.

Anyone with information about the thefts or who might have seen any suspicious activity is asked to call Detective John Eggener of the Montgomery County Police Auto Theft Unit at 301-840-6160 or the non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.