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Swap Meet Argument Leads to Discovery of Auto Theft Ring

An argument between two men at a Pima County swap meet led to the discovery of an auto theft ring, according to recent reports.  An off-duty sheriff’s deputy said he encountered two men at the swap meet arguing about a vehicle, with one claiming that he had the keys to the truck and the other claiming the truck belonged to him. A 38-year-old man, who was driving the truck, claimed ownership, but an examination of the VIN number determined that it had been altered.  A closer check into the background of the driver revealed that he had recently been released from prison after serving three years for running a “chop shop,” or a place where vehicles are altered to hide their true ownership so that they can be sold.  The deputy secured a search warrant for the alleged truck owner’s home, and officers found 14 vehicles on the property, including an ATV and an RV, that they believe were stolen.  Some of the vehicles had VIN numbers that belonged to totaled vehicles, but a closer look revealed that they were actually stolen.  The driver was charged with eight counts of vehicle theft and six counts of running a chop shop.

Vehicle Theft in Arizona

Like most crimes, there are degrees of vehicle theft charges in Arizona.  The charges brought against an individual will depend on several factors, including the value of the vehicle that is stolen, the intent of the individual in taking the vehicle and whether the individual tried to alter the VIN number of the vehicle to avoid detection. In some cases, vehicle theft charges arise from a misunderstanding between the owner of the vehicle and the driver.  For example, someone could be charged with vehicle theft for taking a person’s car without his or her permission, even if the driver believed he or she had the right to do so. However, in most cases vehicle theft charges are reserved for those cases in which it was clear that the driver intended to steal the vehicle or to use it for illegal purposes.  In those cases, it is possible that the individual may be charged with theft, fraud or any number of other charges.  Additionally, if there is evidence that the individual planned to alter the VIN numbers and appearance of the vehicle in order to sell it, other criminal charges may ensue. If you have been charged with any type of vehicle theft, be sure to talk to the criminal defense attorneys at Oswalt Law Group in Phoenix immediately.

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