Julie Humphreys, Public Safety Communication Manager, 509.625.5868
Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 12:17 p.m.
Alert neighbor thwarts catalytic converter theft, leads to seizure of more than $100k in stolen property and breaks up stolen property trafficking ring
On 5-17-2022 around 4:30 AM - a man, who was leaving his apartment in Northwest Spokane for work, noticed two pairs of legs poking out from underneath his neighbor’s car. He reported hearing sawing sounds and it appeared to him the men under the car were cutting off his neighbor’s catalytic converter. He also noticed an unoccupied pickup truck parked nearby and running. The citizen notified police.
Patrol officers responded and located the pickup truck. As officers began their investigation, a subject approached them. The subject (identified as suspect Tyler G. Larsen, 26) said the truck belonged to his friend (identified as suspect Vitaliy A. Budimir, 35), who he summoned to get the truck back. While waiting for Budimir, the officers looked further at the vehicle, and in plain view, they saw what appeared to be stolen tools, purses, and an exhaust muffler. Budimir arrived and told officers that his truck had been stolen earlier that morning all the way across the city.
Further investigation by patrol determined that Budimir, along with another unknown male attempted to cut and steal the catalytic converter off a vehicle causing more than $1,000 in damage to that vehicle. Budimir was arrested and booked for Malicious Mischief 2nd and Attempted Theft 2nd. Larsen was booked for making a false statement to a public servant. Budimir was released on his own recognizance the next day and Larsen was booked and immediately released on his own recognizance.
During a search of the pickup, more stolen catalytic converters, stolen tools, stolen ID cards, stolen access devices (credit/debit cards), and tools used to remove a catalytic converter were recovered. Information from the investigation and from items in the truck also revealed an address where more stolen items may be located. On 5-25-2022, the investigating patrol officers, neighborhood resource officers, SPEAR (Stolen Property Enforcement and Recovery) detectives, and a crime analyst executed a search warrant on the home in the 1300 block of East Garland.
When police identified themselves a subject (identified as suspect Joshua E. Semenchuk, 22) jumped a fence in the backyard and began to run away but was apprehended and booked for an unrelated felony theft of a motor vehicle warrant.
During the search of the home, an extensive amount of stolen property - valued at approximately $20,000 and including six other catalytic converters - was recovered. The detectives and crime analyst were able to immediately search stolen property reports and compare them to the items inside the home to expedite the process of returning items to owners. One of the items recovered was an electric bicycle valued at over $1,500. The victim of the bike theft was able to respond to the home and get their bicycle back that same day.
Several coin-operated toy machines stolen from a local grocery store were also recovered -valued at approximately $3,000. A follow-up investigation by SPEAR identified suspect Jerry Parsons, 30. Parsons was arrested the next morning by the Violent Crimes Task Force for an outstanding Commercial Burglary warrant and Eluding a Police Vehicle. Parsons was linked to Budimir via property recovered during the preceding searches. Additional charges related to the theft of coin machines and usage of a victim’s credit cards are possible.
The investigation also revealed there may be more stolen property located inside a storage unit in North Spokane. Patrol officers responded to the storage center to investigate and obtained a search warrant for two separate units. Both were nearly full of stolen property. Each unit contained a cache of new-in-box power tools, clothing with the tags still on, generators, and electrical equipment. Detectives and the crime analyst were again able to quickly start their search of the property to locate victims of the thefts.
An entire set of firefighter bunker gear (helmet, boots, coat, pants, mask) and wildland firefighter gear was located and linked to a vehicle prowling report. The victim was contacted and recovered his stolen equipment - valued at approximately $9000- that day. A box of tools, a plumbing camera, and a speaker were linked to another vehicle prowling incident and that victim also retrieved his items - valued at approximately $4200- the same day.
Additionally, inside one unit a number of guns including an illegal sawed-off shotgun were recovered. Probable cause was established to arrest the renters of both storage units (Ryan P. Smith, 30 and Wilma R. Haight, 29) for 1st Degree Possession of Stolen Property, Possession of an Unlawful Firearm, and 1st Degree Trafficking Stolen Property.
Smith and Haight were known to use a pickup truck to transport stolen items. On 5-26-2022, an alert detective with the Special Investigations Unit noticed the truck at a hotel in the 9500 block of North Division. Because of Smith’s local history and the risk of firearms being involved, members of SWAT, the Violent Crime Task Force, the Hostage Negotiation Team, and other detectives responded to the hotel to assist in the apprehension. Hostage Negotiators were able to contact the suspects over the phone, who exited a hotel room and were taken into custody without incident.
A search warrant executed on the room resulted in the seizure of approximately $1,000 cash, $3,000 in money orders, approximately 43 cash gift cards of various values, fentanyl “Mexi” pills, and the pickup truck. Smith and Haight were booked into the Spokane County Jail for 1st Degree Possession of Stolen Property, Possession of an Unlawful Firearm, and 1st Degree Trafficking of Stolen Property. Haight also had a confirmed misdemeanor warrant for 3rd Degree Theft. A search of the pickup truck yielded another large amount of potentially stolen property.
Overall, an estimate of over $100k in stolen property was recovered, which stopped an organized, structured stolen property trafficking ring. 7 associated suspects were arrested in the on-going investigation and 3 firearms, including the sawed-off shotgun and a reported stolen handgun, were seized along with much of the property.
The Spokane Police Department would like to thank the alert citizens for their help in this case. This case involved the collaboration of several divisions within SPD and could not have been completed without the teamwork. SPD would also like to remind the public to document all serial numbers/receipts for any valuable items so in the event they are recovered they can be traced back to the rightful owner. Adding a personalized/distinguishable mark to your property is also a great way to make it easily identifiable.
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