Two men who allegedly had catalytic converters in their cars face misdemeanor charges

Catalytic converter thieves may be among Chicago’s most despised species of common criminals today. They’re sneaky, thieving, and increasingly willing to shoot anyone who gets in the way of their work.

Even when Chicago police appear to catch thieves in the act, they are usually only charged with misdemeanors. Outside Cook County, prosecutors are more than willing to sign off on felony charges in similar cases.

Records show that two men who Chicago police allegedly found carrying catalytic converters in cars since July 28 are both facing misdemeanor charges. They are not accused of personally stealing the devices.

Tyree Johnston (L) and Larry Buford | CPD; background image via Burbank (CA) PD

Last Wednesday, a witness on the West Side flagged down police and reported that someone was firing shots from a vehicle in a nearby alley. Prosecutors said cops in Chicago followed a car through an alley as its driver tossed an object out the window before crashing.

Police ran after the driver, Tyree Johnston, and recovered a loaded extended ammunition magazine from the spot where he threw something from the vehicle, according to prosecutors. They later learned that a rifle that had been placed in a nearby garbage can was picked up and taken into a home before they recovered it, according to prosecutors.

But this story is about catalytic converters. Prosecutors said Chicago police found seven of them and a DeWalt saw in the back seat of Johnston’s car.

Johnston, 30, is charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon, criminal trespass to a vehicle, possession of burglary tools, and theft of lost or misplaced property. He also has a pending stolen vehicle case in Orland Park. A January report by Patch said Orland Park police found five catalytic converters and a saw in his car when they arrested him.

His bail was set at $220,000 with electronic monitoring by Judge Maryam Ahmad. To be released on house arrest, he must post 10% of the bail amount.

Next up: Larry Buford.

On July 28, Chicago police saw a Land Rover traveling in the Loop that was wanted by the Secretary of State Police, according to a CPD report. The Land Rover pulled into the BP station at 50 West Ida B. Wells Drive and Buford stepped out of the driver’s seat, police said.

They detained him, learned that the SUV’s registration number did not match the plates, and took him in. According to Buford’s arrest report, there were three catalytic converters in the trunk. The Secretary of State Police took possession of the car.

Buford is charged with misdemeanor sale or purchase of a catalytic converter and motor vehicle violations. He was released on his own recognizance.

If Buford’s name sounds familiar, it may be because we wrote about him last year.

In June 2021, cops patrolling the Loop ran the plate on a 2020 Range Rover because it had tinted front windows, according to a CPD report. The vehicle reportedly came back stolen from a dealership in Cedar Fall, Iowa.

Prosecutors said last year that police discovered a loaded handgun in the driver’s door pocket and another in the passenger door pocket. Prosecutors also claimed that the vehicle identification number on the Range Rover’s dashboard was forged.

Buford’s private defense attorney said Buford thought the car belonged to his friend. And, the attorney said, both of the guns in the car belonged to the passenger. 

Prosecutors dropped all of the charges three months later, according to court records.

Our original reporting is 100% reader-funded. Please contribute to our operating fund or purchase a subscription today.