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N4T Investigators: Arrests made after catalytic converter thefts

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TUCSON (KVOA) - In May, the News 4 Tucson Investigators told you about the rising numbers of catalytic converter thefts. We've recently learned that some arrests have been made.

But the thefts continue, and it's still a growing problem.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators got ahold of court documents that showed two men were arrested after they were identified as thieves who were caught stealing catalytic converters in broad daylight. This document also said investigators seized 90 catalytic converters from a Tucson business.

The owner of a northwest side car lot said that earlier this month when he was in the shop he heard noises, leading him to find a man under a vehicle stealing a catalytic converter. 

The business owner agreed to talk to us but wouldn't go on camera.

He also told us he had experienced at least four catalytic converter thefts this summer. He added that it has cost him about $30,000 to replace them.

The documents showed that the two suspects stealing the catalytic converters were identified by the business owner on Aug. 3.

He also told detectives that they left in a gray Dodge Dakota. The business owner told detectives there were multiple catalytic converters in the bed of the pick-up truck. 

Documents also showed that one of the suspects, identified as Curtis Yarbrough, was currently a suspect in another catalytic converter theft case.

He was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery, trafficking in stolen property. Yarbrough remains behind bars on a $30,000 bond.

Joshua Hunter was also arrested. He's charged with aggravated robbery, and trafficking in stolen property. He's also in jail and on a $10,000 bond.

The document also detailed that investigators went to a northwest side scrap metal yard and seized 90 catalytic converters.

The University of Arizona Police Department told News 4 Tucson, they've had a dozen thefts. So far all of them state owned vehicles used by the university.

UArizona Police Officer Jesus Aguilar commented on this issue.

"Absolutely yes. It's something we've been in the past and we're not the only agency that's experiencing these. I know we're not the only agency or jurisdiction experiencing. I know the city and the county experiencing the same trend," Aguilar said.

At Dodge and Grant, a business owner said he's also caught thieves red-handed. He asked not to be identified.

"I was face to face with one of them he came at me with some kind of a weapon. I ran off and called the police," the owner said.

Tucson police are reporting they've had well over 200 reported thefts since January.

Pima County Sheriff's Department said they've had over 140 reports since the beginning of the year. So, why are catalytic converters in such demand? 

"The catalytic converters are made up of multiple metal pieces some of them have a value when they're scrapped. So, we believe most of them are being sold or stolen in order to be sold," added Aguilar.  

The business owners we spoke with added that they are very upset over the thefts and there's a much bigger picture here and they're hoping police will get to the bottom of it.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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