April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Underhanded thieves

Sawed-off catalytic converters prompts reward from lot

ELYRIA — Most people expect thieves to target car stereos or hubcaps, but sticky- fingered entrepreneurs also are stealing catalytic converters and a local man is looking to put an end to it with a $500 reward.
After more than 35 converters were stolen from cars at the Universal Joint Auto Wrecking lot on Oberlin Road over the last month, manager Phil Rohal decided he has had enough.
“We had people sneaking onto the lot and cutting off the exhaust system to get to the converter and then selling it for scrap,” Rohal said. “I am tired of it, so I am putting up a $500 reward to anyone who offers up information that leads to the conviction of one of these guys.”
The anti-pollution devices have attracted the attention of thiefs because of they contain precious metals and are valuable to recycling warehouses.
“They usually come in when it’s raining. That’s when we’ve noticed it because they can sneak in and our guards don’t hear the saws because of the rain,” Rohal said.
Rohal said he finds more and more cars on his 11-acre lot every day that are missing the coveted devices. Since Rohal sell the vehicles on his lot, a missing catalytic converter can cut into his profits.
“We have more than 1,500 cars out there and every time we go to move some of them we find a few that are missing the converters,” he said.
Elyria police Lt. Andy Eichenlaub said catalytic converter theft complaints have been few and far between in the city, outside of the incidents at Universal Joint Auto Wrecking.
Many of the complaints are from residents who noticed the converters were stolen out of their cars while they were parked in large commercial areas, such as Midway Mall or Chestnut Commons.
Rohal is the only resident who has complained of repeated or multiple thefts, but police still are working with local recyclers to prevent future thefts.
“We speak with the owners of the recycling places and get the lists of the people who have turned in converters and then look for suspects,” Eichenlaub said.
Police don’t have any suspects in the cases from Universal Joint Auto Wrecking, but Rohal said he hopes the reward will change that.
“We will give the money to anyone. Whether it’s someone who witnesses a theft or someone who knows their friend is the one doing it,” Rohal said. “I don’t care who we give the money too. I just want this to stop.”
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or jmedici@chroniclet.com.

What is a catalytic converter?
The anti-pollution device sits halfway between the muffler and the engine of a car andconverts pollutants from exhaust into a less harmful form.

Why is it valuable to thieves?
It contains small amounts of platinum, rhodium and palladium, and the value of these precious metals has been rising sharply over the last year.
Recycling warehouses are willing to pay more than $100 for the devices.

073107convert.jpgBruce Bishop / Chronicle
Phil Rohal, manager of Universal Joint Auto Wrecking on Oberlin Road, points to where the catalytic converter was stolen from one of the cars on the lot.