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San Benito
June 22, 2024

Hollister police arrest catalytic converter theft suspects

Courtesy of the Hollister Police Department:

 In the early morning hours of December 9, 2020, two adult males and an adult female, all from the Bakersfield, CA, area, were arrested after a concerned resident reported suspicious activity possibly linked to the attempted theft of a catalytic converter in the 2000 block of Highland Drive.

At about 12:11 A.M., Hollister police were dispatched to the 2000 block of Highland Drive for a report of a male seen getting into a silver Chevrolet Tahoe and then speeding away.  The reporting party suspected the man getting into the Tahoe had been trying to steal a catalytic converter from a nearby truck. 

While enroute to the area, Officer Rene Rayas saw a silver, 2009, Chevrolet Tahoe driving north on Pinnacles National Park Highway from Sunnyslope Road.  Officer Rayas conducted an investigatory stop of the Tahoe on Highway 25 near San Felipe Road.  Officer Rayas contacted the occupants, two males and a female, whose behavior and story as to why they were in Hollister caused more suspicion.  Furthermore, cutting tools were visible in plain sight within the Tahoe and the female appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance. 

Officer Jason Hutchins and his K9 partner, Lupo, who is trained in the detection of illicit drugs, responded to the scene.  Lupo conducted an exterior “sniff” of the Tahoe and alerted to the presence of drugs inside the Tahoe.  A baggie of methamphetamine was found in the center console of the Tahoe.  A further search revealed several power tools, reciprocating saws, and two recently removed catalytic converters in the rear seat.  The investigation revealed the rear passenger, Rafael Lazaro (29), allegedly had stolen the catalytic converters that evening along with being the one seen trying to steal a catalytic converter on Highland Drive.  Officer Eduardo Solis found a vehicle on Highland Drive and confirmed the catalytic converter was partially removed.  The vehicles whose catalytic converters were stolen from were not located.

Lazaro was arrested and booked into the San Benito County Jail on violations of vehicle tampering, attempted theft, possession of burglary tools, and conspiracy.

The driver of the Tahoe, Fernando Esparza (37), was arrested and booked into the San Benito County Jail on violations of vehicle tampering, attempted theft, possessing of burglary tools, possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy, and having a warrant for his arrest out of Bakersfield.

The female passenger, Janet Silva (38), was arrested and booked for vehicle tampering, conspiracy, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

The Tahoe was towed and stored due to Esparza being an unlicensed driver and signs the vehicle might be an unreported stolen vehicle.  Later in the afternoon, The Tahoe was reported stolen in Kern County, CA.  All three suspects had since been released from custody.  Any charges of vehicle theft will be referred to the District Attorney’s Office.

Catalytic converters are popular amongst thieves, because they are composed of valuable metals including platinum, palladium, and rhodium.  A stolen catalytic converter can be sold to metal recyclers for anywhere between $20 and $250.  Recyclers can extract the valuable metals and resell it for several thousand dollars.

The Hollister Police Department would like to thank the citizen who called the police to report the suspicious activity and provided a good description of the suspect and the vehicle.  The police value the partnership we have with our community.  Working together we can continue to make Hollister a safe place to live. 

Anyone having information on this case or any other pending investigation is asked to call the Hollister Police Department at 636-4330.  Persons wishing to remain anonymous can call the WeTip Hotline at 800-87-CRIME.  Information provided to WeTip may qualify for a reward.