My Maricopa Plumber van
My Maricopa Plumber was the victim of a theft of two catalytic converters from a van similar to this one at its offices August 16. A suspect has been arrested on multiple charges related to the theft. Photo by Brian Petersheim, Jr.

The staff at My Maricopa Plumber got quite a shock when technician Tom McAdams started his company van the morning of Aug. 16.

“It sounded like a NASCAR car,” McAdams said.

It’s no wonder. The vehicle’s two catalytic converters had been stolen from the business, located at 44400 W. Honeycutt Rd., Suite 106 the previous night. The theft was allegedly committed by James Chaney, who, according to Maricopa Police spokesman Luis Vila, was discovered and arrested at around 5:30 a.m. that day in the Planet Fitness parking lot. Vila said officers were called to the scene for a suspicious vehicle.

According to the arrest report, Chaney was charged with theft intended to deprive, aggravated DUI, possession of burglary tools, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license. He was booked into the Pinal County Jail.

The incident was not an isolated one, according to McAdams, who said the owners of MMP also own an automotive performance shop in Chandler, and several vehicles there also had their catalytic converters stolen the same weekend.

Catalytic converters are exhaust emission control devices that reduce toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from internal combustion engines into less-toxic pollutants. They are often being stolen because they are made of metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, and these are extremely valuable to scrap metal dealers.

According to the website, recyclers pay $50 to $200 to legally obtain a failed converter, or one from a junked vehicle. But the site added that industry sources say with the high metals prices, it’s possible for processors to make several hundred dollars per unit selling contents to the refinery.

Vila said he has not heard of any other incidents regarding theft of catalytic converters in the city.

Ironically, Chaney was arrested before the crime was even reported.

“We called the police to report it and they said he had already been picked up,” said Creea Leamon, who co-owns My Maricopa Plumber with Danielle Fitzgerald. “I guess they found him passed out in his car that morning and they think he was waiting for the recycling center to open up.”

Technician Joshua Padilla said the van from which the catalytic converters were taken is still out of commission and the company is using its parts vehicle on service calls until the van is back on the road.

Melanie Quan, who works at the front desk of MMP had her own take on the incident: “It was like something out of the world’s dumbest criminals.”