Three men were arrested on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters early Thanksgiving Day after Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies were alerted to a possible theft in Buellton and allegedly caught them with stolen items.

Deputies responded to the 400 block of La Lata Place at 12:08 a.m. to investigate a possible theft that had just occurred, but the suspects had fled the area in a light-colored sedan prior to their arrival, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Raquel Zick said.

But deputies canvassing the area located the suspect vehicle at Calor Drive and Terrace Court, and when they approached the car they allegedly saw catalytic converters, saws and a large vehicle jack in plain view, Zick said.

Three men in the vehicle — Javier Luevano, 25, and Christian Luevano, 21, both of Bakersfield, and Fernando Esparza, 38, from Buellton — were all arrested on suspicion of felony conspiracy to commit a crime, felony vandalism, felony grand theft and misdemeanor possession of burglary tools.

Christian Luevano was released without bail, Zick said.

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Javier Luevano was also booked for suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors, and was also released without bail.

Esparza remained in custody for those charges as well as an arrest warrant from Ventura County for theft and drug-related charges, Zick said.

One of the stolen catalytic converters was returned to the owner, and the remainder were stored as evidence and for safekeeping, she said.

Catalytic converters have become targets for thieves because they contain such precious metals as platinum and rhodium, and when sold on the black market bring $200 to $600.

But their theft is a big headache for victims and insurance companies because they cost $2,000 to $2,500 to replace, and cars are loud and technically illegal if driven without them.