TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Police Department is investigating as stolen cars were stripped down for parts. TPD arrested a repair shop owner for allegedly running a chop shop.
Lisa Alucard is still in love with her classic 78’ Pontiac Firebird. She knows what it feels like to have a car torn apart. She believes she may have been a victim of a chop shop scheme years ago. Alucard says it took her a year to get her car back.
“The car inside was in near mint condition and they just ruined it," she said.
According to court documents, Alucard's neighbor got her car stolen but a GPS she hid inside brought Tampa Police to R & G Auto Body LLC on North 40th Street. There they ended up finding two stolen cars and two others with missing VINs. They found the woman's stolen Nissan but the stock tires and rims and driver's seat had been removed from the car and replaced with other parts. TPD arrested owner Rafael Garcia and charged him with operating a chop shop.
The document says Garcia did not display a current and valid business license and admitted he did not store work orders and titles to the cars on the property.
We visited the shop looking for Garcia. We didn't find him but did find a man claiming to be an independent contractor hired by Garcia.
“Is this a chop shop here?" we asked him.
“No! I don’t have nothing to do with a chop shop," said the man. This contractor has not been charged with anything and is not a part of the investigation.
“You mean to tell me you haven’t seen anything weird around here?" we asked him.
“Well, like I said— that car there. All these cars. I don’t be knowing. He don’t tell me. If something is not right he don’t tell me," said the man.
The same building, at 3222 North 40th St., was the site of a chop shop bust a year ago under a different name.
Seven miles away at 6912 North Nebraska Avenue, TPD is investigating another chop shop case. According to a search warrant, North Port PD asked TPD to investigate a stolen car. A GPS hit on the stolen Stanley Steamer van led officers to the property. Upon arrival, officers saw a man run off from the back of the stolen car and two other men run out from the yard of the property. Within the property, TPD seized two Ford vans, numerous drugs like cocaine, marijuana, and meth. They also found a gun.
Employees were not happy to see us. A man who claimed to be the brother of the lot owner insists they are not a chop shop. Furthermore, he says the car business on suite A is separate from the mechanic and paint garage at suite B. But according to the search warrant, both parts of the lot are under investigation. TPD says no arrests have yet been made in this case.