Multi-Million Dollar Chop Shop Operation Dismantled
NEW YORK (AP) _ A $1 million-a-week operation where stolen cars were stripped for spare parts destined for South Carolina and Puerto Rico was raided by police who arrested 21 people, authorities said Saturday.
Ring members were dismantling the operation and getting ready to leave town late Friday when scores of officers swooped down on two auto shops, said Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola.
Anthony Ferranti, 31, who police say led the group, and an associate, Juan Bonilla, hid face-to-face in a small space cut inside a wall for 14 hours before they were captured, Merola said.
Another suspect was arrested at an entrance to the Bruckner Expressway, driving a truckload of stolen car parts bound for an alleged distribution center in Greer, S.C., authorities said.
The seizure of a truckload of parts by FBI agents in Puerto Rico last week apparently tipped the Bronx ringleaders that police were watching them, police said.
″They were right. We had been watching them - for 18 months,″ said Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward.
″They apparently thought this weekend would be a good time for them to move out because of the Easter and Passover holidays,″ said Merola. ″They figured the police would all have off.″
The district attorney called the ring ″one of the largest chop shop operations in the history of the city of New York.″
″We’re talking about an operation that probably did as much as $1 million- a-week in transactions,″ including stealing and dismantling cars, and selling and distributing parts.
A majority of the cars, usually Chevrolets, Buicks and Oldsmobiles, were stolen in the Bronx and Queens, police said.
Within hours, the cars would be cut up into pieces, sorted into boxes and readied for a weekly pickup, police said. Huge container trucks would then take the parts either to Greer, S.C. or to Port Elizabeth, N.J. where they were then shipped to San Juan, Puerto Rico, police said.
The arrests were made without incident, Gilmartin said. Officials recovered two guns and nearly $6,000 in cash, along with license plates and parts from 40 stolen cars.
Merola said the officers originally thought they lost Ferranti in the confusion of the raid. After searching every crevice and bringing in dogs, the officers were about to give up when they made one more sweep and found him.
All of those arrested Friday were held on charges of possession of stolen property, Merola said.