Long Beach Police Commissioner Ronald Walsh announced the arrest of three Philadelphia men accused of stealing catalytic converters at a news conference Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Three Philadelphia men have been charged with stealing catalytic converters off cars in Long Beach, thefts that police said are similar to a rash of such crimes last year.

A man looking out his window on Shore Road called 911 at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday to report three men seen underneath a red 2007 Honda Element, wearing orange construction vests, Long Beach Police Commissioner Ronald Walsh said Wednesday.

The resident heard metal grinding and told police he saw them leave in a gray Mazda.

Long Beach Police Commissioner, Ronald Walsh announces the arrest of...

Long Beach Police Commissioner, Ronald Walsh announces the arrest of individuals alleged to be involved with the theft of a catalytic converters from a parked vehicle on Wednesday in Long Beach. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Police pulled over the Mazda nearby and surrounded the car, where officers found two catalytic converters in the back seat and a jack used to lift the car, Walsh said. Police also found phones open with to targets with various GPS locations nearby.

Detectives believe the three men arrested were one of several rings from around Nassau County targeting catalytic converters for valuable metals inside such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. The metals can be sold for up to $18,000 an ounce, Walsh said.

"We believe this is one of many rings working around the county," Walsh said. "There are crews from around the tristate area targeting Hondas, Toyotas and Prius. They are interested in the metals inside."

Nassau County recorded more than 500 catalytic converter thefts last year and Long Beach police had four thefts in November. This was the first such theft this year.

The three men were charged with grand larceny, damage to a vehicle of more than $1,500, auto stripping and possession of burglary tools.

They are: Troy Lynch, 33, Blain Hall, 32, and Ismil Williams, 32, all of Philadelphia, police said. They are to be arraigned Thursday morning in Long Beach City Court and information about their attorneys was not immediately available.

The Mazda the men used was rented and impounded by police.

The catalytic converters can be removed in under a minute and Walsh said the men were posing as construction workers. He urged anyone who sees workers cutting metals on cars to call police immediately.

"It’s a ruse," he said.

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