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Man gets caught trying to steal catalytic converter

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - How bold can a bad guy be?

Perhaps a St. Joseph County homeowner found out last weekend.

That’s when Jim Hughes confronted a would-be catalytic converter thief in the driveway.

Despite the size of the fence surrounding the property. Despite the posted no trespassing signs, two men moved in in broad daylight about 10:30 last Sunday morning and cut to the chase. One started cutting off the catalytic converter on a Jeep in the driveway.

Jim Hughes grabbed his gun and confronted the men. “I can tell you; I think my heart was about ready to jump out of my chest, my adrenaline was pumping so hard,” Hughes told 16 News Now.

At one point, Jim fired some warning shots into the air. That sent one man fleeing on foot, while another drove away in a blue Ford pickup.

Police were able to track the suspect who left on foot. Officers arrested 41-year-old Michael Tobar. According to court documents, Tobar was still carrying a yellow saw when he was taken into custody.

“I was fortunate,” Hughes said. I picked up my weapon when I went out. It all come out, nobody got hurt, I’m thankful about that, but it could have been a whole lot worse.”

Hughes says he does not want others to have to deal with the type of situation he faced on Sunday. That’s why he was shocked when a single misdemeanor count of criminal mischief was filed against Tobar. Criminal mischief is defined as recklessly, or intentionally damaging the property of another.

Criminal mischief is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

“They need to throw the book at these people. They need to send out a message that if you’re caught, you’re going to pay a price for it,” Hughes said.

In February of 2021, local law enforcement leaders held a news conference in support of a bill that would change Indiana law to make the theft of a catalytic converter a level 6 felony punishable by up to 2 ½ years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The law was successfully changed and took effect in July of this year.

“You say you go out and get a law put in place, use it,” said Hughes. “Don’t let these people pull these crimes off and walk away with nothing.”

Hughes complained to the prosecutor’s office which today agreed with his stance. The charges have been updated to include felony auto/converter theft. A spokesperson for St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter wrote that a deputy prosecutor was unaware of the change in the law, and that after becoming aware of the error, the charges against Tobar have been adjusted accordingly.

Hughes is 71 years old and on a fixed income. He says the $1,200 in damage done to his Jeep will be a hard hit to take.

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