By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A man who law enforcement authorities believe could be the second-most prolific catalytic converter thief in southern Minnesota and north Iowa is behind bars. Shawn Clement (36), appears to have gotten sloppy while playing a cat-and-mouse game with cops, leading to his booking.
Olmsted County, Minnesota, police had been stalking their prey for a long time. They say their potential felonious feline target slid into Camping World and Hilltop RV Sales in October. During his visits, they allege Clement purr-loined eleven catalytic converters. He probably hacked the precious pollution reducers off their original rigs. Since each was valued at $2,500, it undoubtedly hacked off RV dealership managers.
But it appears Clement cut his own cheese when he left behind a clue: A “burner” cell phone was found under one of the molested motorhomes. A quick look at the pictures on the phone revealed Clement’s own photo. Could it really be a stealer-selfie? Police got a search warrant and found other interesting evidence. More pictures, including images of other cut-off catalytic converters. Perusing the pussy-footing crook’s phone records revealed contacts with – who else? – metal scrap dealers. Some of the contacts were text messages, asking about prices the dealers might pay for cat converters. The RV cat-burglar left his tracks behind!
Using the cellie as a marker, cops in “true-to-television” fashion did a little more skulking. Low and behold, Clement’s phone could be traced to areas very near to where other catalytic converters had been heisted.
Bell the cat?
But how do you shadow a cat? Law enforcement stealthily attached a GPS locator device to Clement’s vehicle. Ah, in true cat/mouse fashion, police say Clement discovered the device. One supposes he could have done many things with the tricky-tracker. Say, pitch it in a river. Attach it to a police car. But noooo. The evidently not-too-bright RV cat burglar attached it something stationary: the garage door of his rental storage unit. Inside of it were – sure enough – more catalytic converters.
In another none-too-smart move, police were called out by an irate golf-course manager. Someone had mowed over a tee box at the course, and police should investigate! They did. They found the crunched tee box and, nearby, paperwork with Shawn Clement’s name on it. Also on the scene, various truck parts that appeared to have come off the rig that did the damage. When police tracked down Clement’s rig, the parts matched.
The alleged RV cat burglar is now in jail. He’s a suspect in cases of more than 100 catalytic converter thefts. “We’re asking for a high bail,” police said. “We think he’s got some money stashed.” That’s paws-ibble. It’s a good thing somebody called in claw-enforcement.