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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 28, 2006

Six held in bust of illegal auto parts operation

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Six people were arrested yesterday afternoon after the raid of a suspected Pearl City "chop shop," which police called a significant operation in the stolen auto parts trade.

Members of the HPD auto theft detail had been investigating the situation for about a month. Yesterday, they searched the home at 96-135 Waiawa Road and arrested four men and two women on various charges. Officers said they recovered a roomful of items used to steal, strip and refurbish cars.

During the monthlong investigation, eight stolen vehicles were linked to the home, said Detective Thomas Santos. He said it was not known how long the chop shop was operating, but he said it appeared "they've been at it for a while."

"It's a fairly significant one, being that just from this month alone we were able to link eight stolen vehicles," Santos said.

Santos said cars were brought to the home, where they were stripped and the parts sold. He said he believed the illegal parts often were bought by people in the racing community and the proceeds used to purchase drugs.

Four of the six arrested yesterday were booked on drug-related charges.

Among the evidence recovered were a power saw, a "slim jim" used for opening car doors, video camera, battery charger, paint sprayers, drug paraphernalia, numerous car repair manuals and walkie-talkies, which were used as police moved in on the house yesterday, Santos said.

"As the officers were converging on this place, they had lookouts calling them back at the chop shop area, letting them know that our officers were on their way," he said.

Santos said police also recovered photos of the suspects as they put stolen parts on a car.

The ringleader of the operation is a 34-year-old Pearl City man, said police spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii. That man, who has six misdemeanor convictions, was booked on three drug charges, Fujii said. All of the suspects also face stolen property and car theft charges.

In addition to the raid, police warned the homeowner that the continued use of the home for illegal purposes could lead to forfeiture of the property, Fujii said.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.