WOODS CROSS -- Good detective work and a witness reporting suspicious activity may have solved a rash of catalytic converter thefts along the Wasatch Front, says Woods Cross Police Chief Greg Butler.
"It was just plain, good detective work," Butler said.
Also, a witness who spotted a man under a Toyota truck parked in the FrontRunner parking lot helped police with the investigation, Butler said.
Police arrested and booked into Davis County Jail, John Ryan Malaska, 29, of Farmington, on Wednesday. Malaska has since been released from the jail after posting bail.
Woods Cross Police Detective Brad Benson said Malaska was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor theft, but police may file more charges, which could include a felony once they complete their investigation.
Benson said police received reports Tuesday about catalytic converters stolen from three vehicles parked at the Utah Transit Authority FrontRunner station in Woods Cross.
A witness also reported a "suspicious person" in the parking lot who had a suitcase with wheels.
"He described John (Malaska) to a T," Benson said.
A UTA surveillance camera also showed Malaska getting off the FrontRunner train at the Salt Lake City station with the suitcase.
"John (Malaska) is known to law enforcement for scrapping, specifically Toyota catalytic converters," Benson said.
Benson said police have received reports the last several months from Utah Metal Works in Salt Lake City that Malaska has been showing up at least twice a day with catalytic converters.
"He gets $150 a pop for those," Benson said.
Benson said police went to the recycling company Tuesday and confiscated a converter Malaska had brought in. They then took it to a muffler shop and were able to match it up to one of the vehicles that was in the FrontRunner parking lot.
Police asked employees at the recycling plant to call them if Malaska showed up again, which they did Wednesday.
"He was there scrapping another Toyota (catalytic) converter," Benson said.
Mark Lewon, with Utah Metal Works, said catalytic converters are popular because of the precious metal, such as platinum, palladium or rhodium, they have inside them.
They can also be easily removed from four-wheel vehicles and trucks within a matter of minutes because of how high the vehicles are from the ground, which is why Toyota trucks are targeted.
Lewon said his employees were suspicious of Malaska earlier this year because of the number of times he showed up each week with a catalytic converter. They emailed law enforcement agencies to let them know there may be a problem.
"I have email records going way back," Lewon said.
"But if people don't report thefts or that their car was tampered with right away, no one knows where the theft happened," Lewon said, about why law enforcement agencies did not follow through.
Gerry Carpenter, UTA spokesman, said that since June 1 there has been only one other report of a catalytic converter stolen in a FrontRunner parking lot.
Carpenter said if owners of trucks or four-wheel drive vehicles have to park their vehicles in a public parking lot, they should do so where many people walk. Also, anyone who sees suspicious activity, such as a person under a truck, can call 801-287-3937 or dial 911.