Thieves targeting catalytic converters

July 24, 2008 2:52:57 PM PDT
Police have made an arrest in a rash of car part thefts, with catalytic converters being the target.The metal on them is worth big bucks. In Westchester County on Thursday, North Castle police arrested Timothy Dvorscak. He is accused of selling stolen catalytic converters to a scrap-metal shot. It's a problem many local areas are facing.

In fact, one car dealership in Rockland County had more than a dozen vehicles hit.

"Sold one car one day, was going to deliver it that day, customer went to start it up and it sounded like a freight engine," said Donald Chittun, of Rockland Nissan.

Shortly afterwards, Chittun realized that 13 Nissan Rogues all had their catalytic converters ripped out by thieves in the middle of the night. Police say dealerships in both Rockland and Westchester counties have been targeted by thieves, who then re-sell them to scrap metal dealers.

"You have to see it to believe it," service center owner Jim Pomponi said. "In broad daylight, they will get underneath the vehicle, a portable saw and cut it right out of the car."

Last week, police say a theft took place at the Mamaroneck train station in the middle of the day. Experts say it is an easy target.

"You're gone in three minutes," mechanic Ken DiFranco said.

The device might not look like it has much value, but they actually have traces of platinum, palladium and rhodium valued at about $200 on the street. But it's a $7,000 loss though for Chittun's dealership.

"In all my years, I've seen cars get stolen, I've seen my building getting broken into," Chittun said. "I've never seen converters get stolen."

Dvorscak is charged with second-degree auto stripping and fourth-degree grand larceny.

Police say they tracked him down after damaged parts on vehicles were matched to catalytic converters recovered at a scrap-metal shop. Dvorscak was reportedly targeting SUVs because they are high off the ground and easy to slide underneath.

Authorities say he is not the only one out there doing this. But the other agencies that are looking at filing additional charges against him in their jurisdictions are Mount Pleasant, Ossining, Westchester County Police and MTA Police.


STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Thalia Patillo