A chop shop operation that made thousands of dollars a week stolen catalytic converters and other parts was taken down by police Monday in southwest Fresno.
Crooks specializing in the theft of catalytic converters can cost a car owner more that $1,000 in damage with just a few seconds work.
A stolen catalytic converter can cost the vehicle owner more than $1,000 in repairs, said police Sgt. Tim Tietjen of the Career Criminal Auto Theft Team.
Tietjen said thieves use portable power cutters to remove the anti-smog devices, then get about $100 apiece for them at area recycling centers.
At the chop shop, located on South Lotus Avenue near Jensen Avenue and Highway 41, the team found dozens of catalytic converters, along with other parts dismantled from stolen cars. Police found a ledger that provided elaborate details about the amount of stolen property moving through the operation.
Tietjen linked the chop shop to recently arrested Javier Cano Romero, 44. Police say Romero provided keys to gang members to steal cars.
Romero first came to the attention of police in April when they found a chop shop on South Eugenia Avenue in the Calwa area. Officers say they later connected Romero to another chop shop near on North Avenue near Walnut Avenue.
Also taken into custody before the Monday raid were Gabriel Martinez and George Gonzalez after warrants were served in the 1400 block of East Thomas Avenue.
Tietjen said police want to hold recycling centers accountable for buying the stolen items. While it is usually not possible to identify a catalytic converter as stolen because there are no serial numbers, Tietjen said buyers should be suspicious if the same person or group brings in numerous items.