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Catalytic-Converter Theft Suspects Captured in Rancho Santa Fe Following Pursuit


San Diego Sheriff's cruiser vehicle
A San Diego Sheriff’s cruiser. Courtesy of the department

Three suspects in a spate of catalytic-converter thefts were arrested Friday following a road chase that began on Interstate 5 and ended in Rancho Santa Fe.

The pursuit began shortly after 3 a.m., when deputies spotted a vehicle linked to the series of vehicular emissions-control devices traveling to the south on the freeway in northern San Diego County, according to sheriff’s officials.

When the deputies tried to pull him over, the driver refused to stop, continuing to the south before exiting onto Via De La Valle, near Del Mar, Lt. Christopher Lawrence said. The fleeing driver, who had two passengers riding with him, then fled to the east before pulling over, jumping out of the vehicle and running into a field.

Deputies searched the area, but were unable to find the suspect.

The man and woman who had been riding in the vehicle — later identified as 32-year-old Pedro Martinez and 25-year-old Andrea Villalobos, both of Los Angeles — were arrested on suspicion of narcotics offenses and possession of burglary tools.

“The tools found were indicative of catalytic-converter thefts, including floor jacks and reciprocating saws,” the lieutenant said.

About seven hours later, a Rancho Santa Fe resident reported finding a man hiding on his property in the 16000 block of Via Del Alba, and the description of the intruder matched that of the fugitive driver, according to Lawrence.

Deputies then searched the area again, eventually locating the suspect and taking him into custody following a brief foot chase. He was identified as 36-year-old Luis Zepeda-Ochoa of Los Angeles.

Zepeda-Ochoa, a suspect in previous failure-to-yield cases in Orange and Los Angeles counties, was the subject of an outstanding felony warrant for larceny and wanted for “numerous” catalytic-converter thefts in California, Lawrence said.



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