Sep. 30-Authorities in two Allegheny County communities used surveillance video and cellphone records to identify a Philadelphia man as the person who they believe took $71,000 worth of catalytic converters from two car dealerships, according to court papers.
Curtis B. Wallace Jr., 34, was arrested last week on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and related offenses.
Police in Ross Township and Bethel Park filed separate complaints relating to thefts that were reported in each municipality. On May 3, South Park Mitsubishi in Bethel Park reported to police that six catalytic converters were taken from vehicles parked on the lot April 30.
A catalytic converter is a device that looks like a small muffler that is designed to convert the environmentally hazardous exhaust emitted by a vehicle's engine into less harmful gases. It typically takes a couple minutes to cut off but can be a costly repair.
Surveillance video showed one person exit a Buick Century and take the devices from underneath vehicles around 6:30 a.m. while another drove the car, police said. The Buick stopped at a gas station on McKnight Road in Ross earlier in the night and police used surveillance footage there to help them identify Wallace as a suspect.
Ross police said a red pickup truck registered to Wallace was seen on May 5 at Jim Shorkey Mitsubishi in Ross. At 1:15 a.m., police said two people were seen on surveillance video getting out of the truck the night nine catalytic converters were cut from vehicles, according to court papers.
Wallace's drivers license resembled the man in the surveillance images and his probation officer in Philadelphia confirmed him to be the man seen at the gas station, according to court papers. Cellphone records showed that Wallace traveled from Philadelphia in the hours before each theft and that his phone was connected to cell towers in the areas of both crimes, police said.
He was being held at the Allegheny County Jail on a combined $35,000 bail. He did not have an attorney listed in online court records. Preliminary hearings are set for Oct. 5 and 6.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit devoted to combating insurance fraud and vehicle theft, and local police have reported that catalytic converter thefts have increased significantly nationwide since the pandemic started in March 2020. Manufacturers use precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium, the values of which have increased significantly in recent years.
A pretrial conference for Wallace is scheduled later this month in Philadelphia court on charges of theft and conspiracy stemming from a December incident. He was free on $15,000 unsecured bail in that case, according to online court records.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .