Fresno chop shop bust nets rare find

FRESNO, Calif.

A 1971 Chevelle, estimated to be worth $75,000, was found in a garage full of car parts at Olive and Brawley.

The California Highway Patrol said the victim owns several muscle cars and was out of town when the car was stolen Wednesday morning.

Along with that stolen muscle car, investigators found license plates from stolen cars and a pick-up truck that was already in pieces.

Auto theft investigators said if they had not found the 1971 Chevelle Wednesday night then by morning it would likely have ended up like the torn apart pick-up truck it was found next to.

"We have estimates from people around the area that think recently there have been 7 vehicles digested at this chop shop here," said Sgt. Leonard Sherman from the CHP's H.E.A.T. division.

The highway patrol said four men stole the Chevelle from a home in Clovis. The classic car has a highly customized engine and H.E.A.T. officers said the suspects tried to steal other cars from the home.

"One of the vehicles there had an alarm. Apparently they tried to disable the alarm, and had difficulty getting the vehicle started, or likely would have been two vehicles stolen," Sgt. Sherman said.

Along with the two stolen cars found inside the chop shop officers said they found axles to three heavy-duty pick-up trucks, as well as scattered car parts and a license plate from a stolen Honda Accord.

"That is still outstanding," Sherman said. "All we have is parts and components to that."

The H.E.A.T. team said finding a muscle car in a chop shop the same day it was stolen is uncommon, especially when it's still in one piece.

"We're so thankful that the victim was able to get their car back, it's so rare," Sherman said.

The men arrested will be charged with owning and operating a chop shop. They could face other charges as the investigation moves forward.

The CHP also found stolen credit cards and checks that were taken during a car burglary in northwest Fresno Wednesday afternoon.

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