SACRAMENTO, CA - The owner and manager of a Del Paso Heights muffler repair shop were arrested Thursday morning when officers from Sacramento's Metal Theft Task Force raided their business.
One year ago a tip came in that Firehouse Mufflers on Marysville Boulevard was buying stolen catalytic converters. After a few months of background work, an undercover officer went to the repair shop offering to sell, what he said were stolen converters.
"Just going in cold, as they say," the officer said. "We just went in on a whim to see if they'd do it and they bit right away."
Erik Brown, 53, and William Lorch, 50, didn't just bite once, undercover officers sold them at least five "stolen" catalytic converters.
Catalytic converter and copper theft is such a problem that the Sacramento Police Department created a Metal Theft Task Force. The main reason to steal the metal is to sell it to recyclers for cash.
"We've definitely stabilized it," Officer Ken Leonard said. "We've made a lot of arrests on the thieves and also into the shops."
The task force is targeting the buyers, in this case Firehouse Mufflers, because it costs every victim somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000 to replace the stolen converter.
So, police reduce the demand for the stolen metal.
"Because that's where their coming in," Leonard explained. "And if we can stop if there, hopefully the thieves have no place to go. And they're not going to know we're coming. They're not going to know if they're buying from the public or buying from an undercover officer, they're not going to know. We're hoping to get that word out: beware."