Ryan McDonald

Traffic stop yields arrests of four theft suspects

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by Ryan McDonald

Four people were arrested last month in South Hermosa after an officer conducting a traffic stop found stolen auto parts in the car. The arrests occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 22, after a Hermosa Beach police officer pulled over a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign near the 500 block of Monterey Boulevard, said HBPD Sgt. Mick Gaglia. At some point during the stop, the officer found probable cause to search the vehicle, and found four catalytic converters.

The officer determined the converters had been cut off of parked cars and arrested the four people in the car on suspicion of grand theft, Gaglia said. During the arrests, the officer ran the suspects names through the vehicle’s on-board computer and learned that one of them, 23-year-old James Andrew Colomo, had an outstanding warrant for robbery.

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According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Colomo was booked into Hermosa Beach City Jail, but is now being held in a Los Angeles County jail in lieu of $185,000 bail.

“That’s just good police work. The officer stopped a car, and ended up finding some bad guys,” Gaglia said. 

Along with Colomo, Alyssa Ciara Salas, 21, was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property, grand theft, and possession of burglary tools. Sheriff’s records indicate she was cited and released on Dec. 26th. Octavio Goytia, 24, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, and was released on Dec. 22 after posting a $20,000 bond. Hermosa police arrest logs indicate that Roberto Romero, 19, was the fourth person arrested in the car, but the details on Romero’s status were not immediately available from the sheriff’s department.

Catalytic converters reduce the emissions associated with exhaust from a car’s engine. The devices often contain quantities of metals, including platinum, that are chosen because they are impervious to corrosion and can sustain high temperatures, but which give them high potential resale value on the scrap metal black market, where they can sell for $200 apiece.

Replacing the converter is far more expensive for the victim. It is illegal in California to drive a car without a catalytic converter, and a new one can cost upwards of $1,000, according to auto parts websites.   

Gaglia said converter thefts are a “consistent crime” but that they have not been on the rise lately. Some can be engraved with vehicle ID numbers, which can help police connect the part with the car it was taken from. HBPD Det. Matt Franco, who is investigating the thefts, has traced one of the catalytic convertors to a vehicle in Redondo Beach, and is searching for the owners of the other three cars. Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of the theft or with information about the case can contact Franco at mfranco@hermosabeach.gov, or call (310) 318-0332.

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