‘We looked and it was missing’: 3 men arrested in connection to catalytic converter theft in Ocala

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:44 PM EST
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - On December 28th, three men were arrested in connection to catalytic converter theft reported in Ocala.

The trio, 18-year-old Shancello Gazich, 19-year-old Michael Antunez and 25-year-old Franko Louis were arrested miles away, by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies. Deputies found 13 stolen catalytic converters in their trunk.

The owner of Prestige Auto Sales in Ocala, Chris Spears, was a victim of the theft and was notified about the arrest on January 18th.

“We were just moving inventory and when you start a truck and there’s no catalytic converter on it, it makes quite a ruckus,” shared Spears. “We immediately figured out something was wrong. We looked and it was missing, so we called the Ocala Police Department.”

Ocala detectives said this kind of theft has been increasing and confirmed they’ve received 25 reports since November.

“In Flagler County’s case, they made their arrest, they did their bulletin and sent it out,” OPD Detective Mark Pfeifer. “We reviewed it and we were able to work off of that bulletin so, we’ll always try to help each other.”

Victims said their pickup trucks, specifically Toyota Tacomas, were targeted in their apartment complexes. The same situation happened in Carlton Arms Apartments. Detectives said pick-up tucks are targeted because they are lifted and make it easier for thieves to get to.

“Well, we may have a dozen Toyota trucks so only one Tacoma had it stolen from. It’s over $2,000 for the catalytic converter to be replaced.”

Residents made clear that catalytic converters are not cheap to replace. Spears said his business’ security cameras helped follow the vehicle responsible for the theft and detectives quickly connected the dots.

“There are cameras everywhere so when we get information from other agencies, that gives us something to look for when we’re reviewing our surveillance,” shared Detective Pfeifer.

Detectives suggest keeping cars in a garage, and parking cars in a well-lit place. “I’ve seen places that will weld metal plates, where the converters are at, to prevent thieves from getting under there,” suggested Detective Pfeifer.

If you see or hear any suspicious activity about these thefts, detectives encourage residents to call the Ocala Police Department at (352) 369-7000.

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