Beware, Police Say Wappinger Man Dismantled Cars at Fall Festival
The last thing you'd expect to happen during a local festival is for your car to be taken apart by thieves, but that's what police say happened and could happen again.
Fall is the most popular time of year to visit the Hudson Valley. People looking to peep at the foliage, pick apples and pumpkins or just get away from the hustle and bustle of the city flock to the region every October. Countless festivals and fall activities are scheduled every weekend throughout the month, attracting tourists as well as local residents.
Sadly, one local festival ended badly for several people whose cars fell victim to a brazen thief who authorities say was hunting for "the most valuable metal on the planet." Police say the treasure hidden inside many cars was just too much of a temptation for a Town of Wappinger man who dismantled cars just to get his hands on it.
On Sunday, October 16 New York State Police say they began investigating reports of cars being targeted at the Sheep and Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The annual event has become one of the trendiest destinations of the season, with this year's festival gaining coverage from Vogue, The New York Times and other national outlets. The festival has attracted attendees from neighboring states as well as New York City who have flocked (no pun intended) to Rhinebeck for this unique event.
Some festivalgoers say that while they were ogling knitted scarves and wooly sheep someone was surgically removing parts from their car. Troopers began investigating the theft of catalytic converters from cars at the Sheep and Wool Festival. According to authorities, the part was taken from three Honda Elements parked at the fairgrounds.
Catalytic converters are coveted by thieves because they contain rhodium, a metal more valuable than gold, silver or platinum. Located just before the muffler, the catalytic converter filters out harmful emissions. Recently, thieves have been taking apart cars to steal this precious metal. Older Hondas are among the most targeted cars because they contain more of the metal than newer vehicles and the converters are easy to remove.
After an investigation, police identified George Foster from the Town of Wappinger as a suspect in the thefts. The 39-year-old was arrested and charged with Auto Stripping in the first degree, and four counts of Grand Larceny in the third degree. Both charges are class D felonies.
Police are urging residents to stay vigilant when leaving their cars. Due to recent thefts, drivers are being told to park their vehicles in a garage if possible and avoid leaving cars in unattended locations. Automobile owners are also encouraged to have their mechanic etch the vehicle's VIN number into the catalytic converter to thwart thieves from stealing it.
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