Sheriff Craig Webre announced three arrests have been made in a string of catalytic converter thefts throughout Lafourche Parish. Investigators arrested Jose Elizondo-Villarreal, 54, of Thibodaux, Steven Sparks Jr., 37, of Raceland, and Percy Calloway Jr., 31, also of Raceland. Investigators also recovered 125 catalytic converters, many of which are believed to have been stolen.
In February 2022, members of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division were assigned to investigate a number of catalytic converter thefts throughout the parish. Investigators learned Sparks and Calloway were stealing catalytic converters and selling them to Elizondo-Villarreal who was providing cash for the items without questioning origin or keeping proper records of sales.
On March 21, 2022, investigators saw Sparks walking away from a white box truck on LA Highway 1 in Thibodaux, and they made contact with him. They found him to have three catalytic converters which had been cut from vehicles, along with reciprocating saws, saw blades, car jacks, and several small bags of methamphetamine. They learned Sparks had stolen dozens of catalytic converters and sold them for cash to Elizondo-Villarreal.
With the assistance of the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Louisiana State Police, investigators conducted a search of Elizondo-Villarreal’s business and its transactions. They found him in possession of 122 catalytic converters, many of which are believed to have been stolen.
Elizondo-Villarreal was arrested and booked into the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex in Thibodaux. He was charged with two counts of Felony Illegal Possession of Stolen Things and failure to keep proper receipts of business transactions (LA R.S. 37:1864). He was released on March 24, 2022, after posting bail in the amount of $200,000.
Sparks was arrested and booked on charges including Felony Illegal Possession of Stolen Things, Possession of Tools for a Crime, Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Attempted Felony Theft, Theft, and Criminal Trespassing. He remains at the Correctional Complex with bail is set at $137,500.
Calloway had been in jail since March 5, 2022, when he was booked on contempt charges and protective order violations, as well as property damage in Patterson. On March 25, he was additionally booked with Theft and Criminal Trespassing. His bail is set at $128,500, and he is also being held for the Patterson Police Department.
The case remains under investigation and additional arrests are possible.
Thefts of catalytic converters have been on the rise worldwide in recent years due to the value of the precious metals inside. Because criminals must crawl under a vehicle to saw off a catalytic converter, pickup trucks, box trucks, vans and SUVs that sit higher off the ground are targeted more often. Hybrid and electric vehicles are also targeted due to the amount of metals inside. Owners are encouraged to park vehicles in garages, secure areas, or well-lit areas whenever possible. Utilizing surveillance cameras can also help deter theft.