Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday his office had filed charges against the men believed to be responsible for stealing a number of catalytic converters before crashing into a deputy’s vehicle on Saturday.
Two of the three suspects in the case, Vue Xiong, 31, of San Luis Obispo, and Fong Vang, 38, of Merced, each face three felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of attempted grand theft.
“We are working collaboratively with law enforcement to prosecute catalytic converter thefts. However, these cases are notoriously difficult to solve and prosecute,” said Gascón in a statement distributed Tuesday afternoon. “That’s why I am also working with state lawmakers on a legislative fix to prevent these crimes from occurring altogether by requiring that identification numbers be engraved on the catalytic converters themselves.”
A third suspect, Thao Lee, 36, of Merced, was also arrested at the scene and booked at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on suspicion of grand theft, attempted grand theft, conspiracy and reckless driving, according to Deputy Natalie Arriaga, a spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station.
Officials from the D.A.’s Office were not immediately available to comment on the status of Lee’s case and whether any charges had been filed against him as with the other two suspects. Arriaga declined to comment beyond the confirmation of Lee’s arrest and booking charges, citing that it remained an ongoing investigation.
The criminal cases stem from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies engaging in a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle suspected of carrying stolen catalytic converters near Valencia Boulevard and Interstate 5 at approximately 3 a.m.
“On April 9, the two men and a third suspect were reportedly seen in Santa Clarita stealing catalytic converters and police were called,” the D.A.’s Office press release read. “They attempted to flee police, even after the patrol vehicles stopped pursuing them.
“The van finally came to a stop after running a red light and crashing into a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department cruiser,” prosecutors added.
Lt. Brandon Barclay of the SCV Sheriff’s Station told The Signal later Saturday morning that the deputies had initially lost sight of the suspects’ silver Honda Odyssey. But about a minute after they decided to call off the pursuit, they were notified of the crash involving their suspects.
The law enforcement vehicle that was struck, according to Barclay, was not involved in the pursuit, but rather was an SCV Sheriff’s K9 unit responding to an unrelated call to assist the Burbank Police Department about a stolen Chevy Silverado that may have been in the area.
No deputies or K9 units were reported to have sustained serious injuries in the collision.
The 31-year-old suspect, who was driving at the time, had no reported injuries but the other two occupants of the car were sent to the hospital in critical condition, Barclay said. One sustained a head injury and is reported to have had brain bleeding and the other had a broken jaw.
During their investigation, eight catalytic converters were recovered from the suspects’ vehicle, D.A. officials said in their press release. “Catalytic converters, which are used to turn hazardous exhaust into less harmful gases, are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum and can be worth up to $1,200.”
The case remains under investigation by the SCV Sheriff’s Station. As of Wednesday, two of the three suspects remained in law enforcement custody after the 38-year-old was released on Monday with an order to appear in court at a later date.