Arrests made in string of Upstate catalytic converter thefts

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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Four arrests have been made in connection to a string of catalytic converter thefts in the Upstate, according to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspects are believed to be responsible for 19 incidents since January. From video evidence of a business’ camera and in conjunction with Greenville Police, the suspects were arrested.

They were located in Greenwood, Ware Shoals and Greenville County, and taken into custody.

29-year-old Thomas Kentell Thomas, 26-year-old Anterriyo Deondre Cade, 25-year-old Darius Akeem McClendon, and 26-year-old Vance Lakeith Elmore remain in the Greenville County Detention Center.

Together, they have been charged with 72 counts of auto-breaking, 71 counts of larceny, 11 counts of possession of burglary tools and 11 counts of criminal conspiracy, according to the sheriff’s office.

Since Jan. 1, Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis says the department has investigated over 100 incidents involving the theft of catalytic converters. Suspects mostly target businesses during nighttime hours, spending roughly two to three minutes on each vehicle to cut and remove parts, he said.

They take them to scrap yards and refineries, where they sell them for anywhere between $200 and $4,000, according to the sheriff’s office. Nine people have also been arrested in connection to illegal trading.

“Fortunately enough our investigators were able to collaborate with investigators from other agencies and identify at least four of the individuals responsible and now they’re behind bars,” said Spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, Ryan Flood.

He said the Sheriff’s Office wants the community to remain vigilant.

“Be looking out for people suspicious in the area or around their businesses especially. People who are carrying items like saw saws or backpacks,” Flood said. “People who they haven’t seen around that area in a while.”

He added it’s also important to invest in a good surveillance camera.

“That’s what really has helped us is these strong working surveillance cameras that produced a good enough image that we were able to see and then eventually identify these individuals,” said Flood.

That’s the reason owner of Eastside Automotive, Matt Ruffman, said he thinks he wasn’t targeted.

“We’ve got security cameras. We put them in a couple years ago. And we’ve got a security system if anybody were to try to get into the building,” Ruffman said. “I did talk to the guy that set up our security cameras about putting motion ones for the back of the building so my phone could go off if anything were happening.”

Several businesses nearby his were hit by thieves for catalytic converters.

“They’ve cut our back corner of our gate and in the back of our gate to get to other businesses,” Ruffman told 7 News. “We can see them on camera looking around and digging through stuff.”

While these four men are believed to be responsible for at least of the 19 crimes, the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate more than 70 other incidents across the county.

Flood said they believe there are more suspects out there and urges anyone with information to come forward.

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