San Luis Obispo police arrest three alleged catalytic converter thieves

February 25, 2021


Following a tip from an alert resident early Wednesday morning, San Luis Obispo police reportedly caught three thieves from Northern California with four stolen catalytic converters.

Shortly after 1 a.m., a 911 caller reported hearing what sounded like metal being cut in the 100 block of Mustang Drive. The witness reported seeing a dark minivan in the area with a cargo rack on the roof. The individual suspected the incident was related to recent catalytic converter thefts, police said.

An officer arrived in the area, located the minivan and stopped it. Three suspects were inside the vehicle.

Police searched the van and found three catalytic converters, as well as tools used for removing them from vehicles. The suspects admitted to earlier stealing the catalytic converters,police said.

Investigators later located two more catalytic converters at a local hotel. The suspects admitted to stealing those two converters in Monterey County, according to police.

Police identified the suspects as Clearlake Oaks resident Samantha Chavez, 35, Concord resident Eric Staudinger, 33, and Pleasant Hill resident Nicholas Vanbuskirk, 31. Officers booked the suspects in the San Luis Obispo County Jail on charges of grand theft during a state of emergency, conspiracy, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools and vehicle tampering.

None of the suspects are listed on the county sheriff’s office website as currently being in custody.

An investigation into the case is ongoing, and police are trying to locate the owners of the catalytic converters found in the hotel. Anyone who has information about the case is asked to contact Detective Benedetti at (805) 594-8060.

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If any of these guys were born before 1974, can they be charged?

(if you are a hot rod guy, that’s funny stuff!)

Honest legal catalytic converter buyers require a copy of sellers business license and photo identification if seller selling more than one cat or selling a cat everyday …There is crooked muffler shops that place orders with the thiefs then the thiefs go steal the cats that the muffler shop needs . Toyota prius very popular along with any hybrid cat parts price can range 1700.00 to 2500.00 new plus labor .Vehicle Crash Air bags have also been a commodity for thieves , unscrupulous vehicle flippers are famous for removing blown air bags and not replacing them just a new upolstery cover placed over missing air bag then they eliminate air bag warning light and other related systems thru either removing LED or using resistors in vehicle computer to eliminate any signs that air bags are missing or not functional in the vehicle they are flipping.The vehicle computers have no knowledge that the crash system has problems .I could go on and on . In a modern computer controlled vehicle all the electronics are easily hacked

We should tar and feather these criminals, but do nothing about the crimes that governmental employees do every single day. This history of criminal misconduct committed by City of San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande is well documented. Yet, nothing happens to these criminals who steal more from the public then these petty thieves. Dan Dow has done nothing to the well documented embezzlement of millions of dollars committed by the SLO County IWMA. Why is that? Dan Dow has done nothing about all the fraud committed by PB Companies, Ryan Wright or Ryan Petitte. Why is that? Simply, these are the POS that he plays golf with, the people he has lunch with and socializes with weekly. Hang the petty thieves, but let the embezzlers who work for and with government get off scott free.

Theft of these catalytic converters has been out of control for some time now. Good to see charges loaded up on these three, but all but one will be dropped for a plea deal. It’s Wednesday morning, and they are already out of jail, less than ten hours after being arrested for this, and no doubt they have their van back, too, so they can continue their lives of crime. A photo of the van and their pictures would be helpful. I somehow doubt this arrest is going to stop them.

You got it. They’ll back, and soon. No room at the Graybar Hotel for a stay long enough to dissuade them. Lots of businessmen have lost their ass on an legal endeavor. They didn’t give up and many came back wiser and more successful. With de facto decriminalization of property crimes state-wide why should these guys give up? In SF car break-ins and burglaries are legal “hunter-gatherer” activities.

Simple solution is to have a “serial” or the “vehicle’s vin number” engraved/stamped on it when car is manufactured and the “item” cannot be “sold” without.