Police busted several people for operating a chop shop out of a Tampa home. A woman accused of running the shop says they have it all wrong.
"We had been seeing a pattern, specifically of Honda Civics, showing up in the city that were completely stripped, shells of cars," Tampa Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.
That was earlier this year.
Then they received a tip that a chop shop operation was happening at a home on North Highland Avenue. After observing the home and sending a helicopter to get aerial photos of the property, police had enough for a warrant.
In the backyard, arrest documents say officers found five stripped down Honda Civics. In the front, another Civic with a stolen engine.
"Was this property being used as a chop shop?" a reporter asked Nora Ortiz, who’d just bonded out of jail.
"No, it was not," Ortiz said.
Ortiz lives in the home. She was arrested Thursday morning on charges of operating the chop shop. Her husband and three others were arrested the day of the raid.
She showed us the titles of two of the cars she says police claimed were stolen. She says one had no stolen parts at all. The other car, which is her son's, did have a stolen engine. She claims they bought it that way and had no clue there were stolen parts.
"It was legit to us," Ortiz said.
As for the other cars police said they found in the backyard, she said they don't exist.
"Why would Tampa Police arrest you and your husband?" a reporter asked.
"Because my name was on the title of the [my son's] car," Ortiz said.
Ortiz said she believes the person who sold the car to her son may be operating a chop shop.
While police are looking for more suspects, they said Ortiz and the others arrested are not innocent victims.
"The bottom line is, they are stealing vehicles from people, selling off those parts, putting them into other cars and that's illegal," Davis said.
Most of the stolen cars were from outside of city limits in Hillsborough County. The Sheriff's Office is also investigating.