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UPDATED: Task force busts suspected chop shop at Tacoma home

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on Dec. 1, 2011 at 8:33 am |
December 1, 2011 11:46 am

UPDATED at 11:30 a.m.

Area law enforcement have arrested two men and were searching for a third suspected of running a chop shop from a South End Tacoma home.

Members of the Auto Crimes Task Force served a warrant on the home in the 3300 block of South K Street early today. They found a stolen car on the property and a stolen Infinity that had been dismantled, Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler said.

“When you take down these operations, you take a big chunk out of what’s going on out there,” Lawler said.

The arrests were the culmination of a two-month investigation by the task force, which is comprised of investigators from the Lakewood police, Tacoma police and Pierce County sheriff’s departments as well as smaller agencies. The Lakewood Police Department hosts the task force, which is funded by a grant from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

“They get into this (investigation) and find a man who is selling stolen cars and running a chop shop,” Lawler said.

Investigators don’t yet know whether the suspects were stealing the vehicles themselves or buying them from someone else. They do believe the vehicles were taken from the Tacoma-Pierce County area and then taken to the South End home to be sold intact or dismantled, Lawler said.

During the investigation, undercover officers bought nine stolen vehicles from the chop shop operator. Two of the vehicles were purchased this morning before the search warrant was served, Lawler said.

After serving the search warrant, investigators arrested two men. A 48-year-old man was booked into Pierce County Jail on suspicion of eight counts of taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission. The other man was booked into jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property and violating a domestic violence protection order, Lawler said.

Investigators were working on getting the stolen vehicles back to their owners.

It’s not illegal in Washington to run a chop shop. However, the task force would like to see the law changed so it is, Lawler said.

Most of the people arrested in connection with a chop shop are booked on charges of possession stolen vehicles and trafficking stolen property.

“It would be nice if you can get them for running a chop shop operation,” Lawler said.

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