This chop shop was sophisticated and even included engine hoists and cutting instruments. Sheriff's investigators say the chop shop was found during a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle.
Fresno County Sheriff's Ag task force detectives noticed a Chevy Tahoe Tuesday hauling a flatbed full of cut up parts from a white Honda Sedan.
Deputies pulled over the SUV near Clovis Avenue and Central before discovering the Tahoe was stolen two years ago, and so was the Honda it was pulling.
Chris Curtice with Fresno County Sheriff's Office told Action News, "On first look at the Tahoe, it looked pretty normal. As they delved into it a little more, there on other places on the vehicle- the frame, the engine block, where the vin number is also stamped and that's when they found the correct vin number, when they ran that, they found out it was stolen."
Investigators arrested the passenger in the Tahoe, 49-year-old /*Sherri Ray*/. Then they searched the property where she was living to discover seven stolen cars, all stripped.
Three of the cars were reported stolen out of Selma, three from Fresno, and one from Sanger. It took four loads just to get all of the stolen parts, including engines, seats, and doors to the tow yard.
Deputies working with the CHP's Help Eliminate Auto Theft or HEAT Team, say the cars were not the typical types seen at chop shops. "They weren't your average stolen Toyotas or Hondas, they were some legitimate nice cars in here. Some later model Hondas, later model SUV's, Tahoe's, things like that so this was a legitimate operation."
Investigators say what they've found so far, may only be the beginning of a chop shop that involves several people and an operation that may have gone undetected for several years.
Sherri Ray does not have a prior criminal history. Detectives did not reveal what role she played in the operation. But, they do not believe she acted alone.