Crime

York County thief caught in the act of stealing catalytic converters, police say

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

A rash of York County thefts of emissions parts from vehicles was thwarted when a patrol officer caught the thief in the act, police say.

Antonio Lamar Nelson, 33, of Columbia, is charged with 30 crimes related to the theft of catalytic converters, said York County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Trent Faris.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum that can be sold, Faris said. The metals are platinum, rhodium, palladium and others, Faris said.

“These cases cause thousands of dollars in damage,” Faris said. “The thief only gets a couple hundred dollars in metals but the damage is huge for the public.”

Patrol Lt. David Frye, a three decades-plus deputy who is a supervisor for the Rock Hill substation of the sheriff’s office, was conducting property checks along Saluda Road around 3 a.m. May 3. He saw a suspicious person wearing a dust mask stand up between two vehicles at Family Auto Sales.

Nelson had cut off seven converters and was working on an eighth when Frye caught him, Faris said.

Nelson ran and was later caught by a K-9 unit.

“It is satisfying to be able to make the community safer,” Frye said. “This is what community policing is all about.”

Nelson also is the suspect in previous converter thefts in April and last week, Faris said.

Nelson is charged with 22 counts of breaking into cars, two counts of malicious damage to property, two counts of damage to property to obtain metals, two counts of grand larceny, and two counts possession of tools capable of being used in a crime.

Police said the investigation into other recent converter thefts remains ongoing. It is unclear if Nelson is connected, said Rock Hill Police Department Capt. Mark Bollinger.

Nelson was out on $5,000 bond from a March 31 arrest by Rock Hill police for grand larceny, court records show.

Nelson is being held at the York County jail under a $100,000 bond on the 30 new charges, according to jail records.

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