EARLIMART, California. (KSEE) – A probation compliance check ended in a massive catalytic converter bust in Earlimart.

Deputies with Tulare County Sheriff’s Office found nearly 100 stolen catalytic converters valued at around $167,000.

Law enforcement agencies across the Central Valley are reporting a rise in catalytic converter theft. 

“We are seeing our ag community be hit especially hard,” said Ashley Ritchie with Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.

On Monday, Ritchie says deputies found 93 stolen converters at the Earlimart home of Royer Gonzales during a probation compliance check.

“I believe there were at least 10 from one farmer and that he had stolen from. So for that particular individual who had been burglarized I mean that’s thousands of dollars that he’s out,” said Ritchie.

Fresno Police Officer Felipe Uribe says thieves target all vehicles, but especially hybrid’s such as the Toyota Prius because the converter is worth more. 

Officer Uribe says thieves are reselling the part or recycling it and cashing in on the extracted metals.

“You know, just a few weeks ago, an ounce of rhodium would go for $13,000, and that’s more than the price of gold and silver combined.”

According to the Fresno Police Department, crooks often leave the area as soon as they are done.

“We don’t know exactly where it’s being taken but we feel that it’s not in Fresno. Fresno is so unfortunately just the victim’s location,” said Officer Uribe.

Law enforcement recommends car owners to park in well lit areas or a garage. A security camera and alarm system could also help scare them off and provide identifiable video to law enforcement. 

“We encourage people to make reports, even when they feel that it’s not going to help them. It helps the next person, and it also helps us keep track of where these incidents are happening, so we can in turn devote resources to that area,” said Officer Uribe.

Another option is to have the catalytic converter welded securely to the bottom of the car. Agencies also recommend etching the vehicle’s identification number or license plate so if it’s stolen, they can return the property.