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Several suspects arrested in catalytic converter theft ring

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Updated: 2/26/2014 2:45 pm
Thieves aren't just stealing cars they're swiping car parts too and turning a quick buck while leaving victims with a huge bill. News 3's Elizabeth Donatelli is near Westwood and Industrial ... Where the swat team made the discovery inside a building there this morning. They searched a building and a residence and found evidence of a disturbing trend-- catalytic converters that are possibly being sold for scrap.

Metro arrested seven people today in connection to a catalytic converter theft ring.

Metro Officer Bill Cassell said warrants were served today at a private residence and a business in the 2800 block of Westwood Drive, near Highland Drive.

The group is accused of taking the converters from vehicles and selling the parts for scrap metal.

The SWAT team served search warrants in two places where they found pieces of cars here and they suspect may have been stolen.

Police said they found transmissions, batteries inside the buildings but have their eyes on the catalytic converters.

The long metal tubing found under the car used to reduce pollution that are made up of valuable metals. Thieves can cut off to damage a car in under one minute.

It is an ongoing investigation and more arrests are possible, according to Cassell. He added that there are many victims, possibly a hundred.

A total of seven individuals were arrested, and hundreds of vehicle parts believed to be stolen were recovered.

Arrested in connection with this investigation were:
  • Alex Wertheim, 47, of Las Vegas. Wertheim is charged with one count of owning / operating a chop-shop and 10 counts of attempting to buy / possess or receive stolen property.
  • Dean Sbraccia, 44, of Las Vegas. Sbraccia is charged with 28 counts of grand larceny.
  • Michael Sbraccia, 43, of Las Vegas. Sbraccia is charged with 36 counts of grand larceny.
  • Dawn Yon, 21, of Las Vegas. Yon is charged with 34 counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny.
  • Charles Nicholas Smith, aka “Chuck” Smith, 36, of Las Vegas. Smith is charged with one count of falsely attaching or removing a vin number from a vehicle.
  • Michelle Susan Mourelatos, 49, of Las Vegas. Mourelatos is charged with one count of falsely attaching or removing a vin number from a vehicle, along with traffic related warrants.
  • Daniel James Kelly, 41, of Las Vegas. Kelly, who was arrested on July 2, 2013, as part of this investigation, is charged with seven counts of grand larceny, two counts of attempted grand larceny, and nine counts of destroying the property of another.
Catalytic converters are usually stolen because of the value of some of the materials from which they are constructed, such as platinum, palladium and iridium.

While the street value of these stolen components range in the area of $75 to $150 for their scrap metal content, the cost to the victims for the repair of their vehicles can range in the thousands of dollars, impacting both the victims and area insurance rates.

Criminals who steal these components normally target vehicles known to have converters containing the highest precious metal content. An accomplished thief can steal one of these units in less than one minute.



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