The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a 15-count federal indictment against five men from northeast Ohio who are alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy that trafficked in stolen vehicles, backhoes, steel, scrap metal and other objects through a “chop shop” and a scrap metal facility in Cleveland.
Accordign to the DOJ, related charges have been filed in state court against nine other defendants.
“This indictment lays out a conspiracy that included thefts in Warrensville Heights, Willoughby, Mentor, Euclid, Elyria and a slew of other locations,” says Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio.
Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland office of the FBI, says, “These defendants collectively represent one of the largest vehicle and cargo-theft operations in Northern Ohio in the last five years. The FBI and our Organized Crime Task Force partners will continue our efforts to detect and dismantle these illegal enterprises which negatively impact our economy and our citizens."
In its charge, the DOJ says several of the defendants stole vehicles and delivered them to a “chop shop,” where they were stripped of identification. Some components were sold and the remaining portions of the vehicles were sold for scrap.
After truck drivers parked their rigs, the defendants would steal loads of cargo and then deliver them to Express Metals, a scrap recycling facility on the east side of Cleveland allegedly owned by one of the defendants, the DOJ alleges.
The charges include conspiracy, operating a chop shop, altering vehicle identification numbers, theft, possession of stolen cargo and other charges.