PRESTON -- A recent arrest of Lanesboro man who allegedly attempted to steal a catalytic converter sparked a reminder from the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office to "be vigilant and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity."
Michael Lee Drake, 30, is charged in Fillmore County District Court with felony possession of burglary or theft tools and misdemeanor charges of theft and tampering with a motor vehicle.
He made his first appearance in court on Feb. 12. Judge Matthew Opat ordered Drake released on conditions. His next court date is scheduled for March 22.
An investigator with the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office was sent about 10:30 a.m. Feb. 10 to a residence on Hickory Road in rural Lanesboro for a report of a possible theft or a motor vehicle tampering in progress.
Using a vehicle description, an investigator and a lieutenant were able to locate the suspect vehicle.
When a lieutenant stopped the vehicle, the investigator recognized Drake as the passenger. The driver told the investigator that he and Drake were out for a drive. Drake eventually admitted that "he thought he had permission to take the catalytic converter from an individual that lived" at the Hickory Road residence and that it was a "mix up and that they were at the wrong place," the criminal complaint states.
"Drake later admitted that he was there to remove the catalytic converter off of the vehicle and that he did not have permission from anyone," the complaint reads.
Drake was not able to remove the truck's catalytic converter.
A witness told another Fillmore County Sheriff's deputy that she had seen a white car drive by the Hickory Lane residence a few times before stopping in the roadway near an abandoned pickup on the property.
"Catalytic converter thefts from vehicles continue to happen throughout southeast Minnesota," the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "Not only are these thefts hard to track, they can take place in mere minutes during the day or night, with the thieves using simple power tools."
In Rochester, police have taken at least 10 reports from Feb. 22 to Feb. 24 for a total of 13 catalytic converters being stolen off vehicles parked at residences or businesses. All of those reports occurred in Northwest Rochester, according to Rochester police Capt. Casey Moilanen.
On Feb. 10, the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office received a report that six catalytic converters were taken off work vehicles parked in a fenced lot in the 4600 block of Hadley Valley Court Northeast in Cascade Township.
The New York Times reported that stricter car emissions rules around the globe have sent demand for the precious metals in catalytic converters -- like palladium and rhodium -- up and sent the prices for those metals to record highs.
Locally, Minnesota lawmakers are working to keep stolen catalytic converters from being resold on the black market.