TAMPA (FOX 13) - Dozens of cars, trucks, and SUVs were seized by Tampa Police after officers busted an alleged chop shop.
Now they’re searching for the person who was running the illegal business.
Officers went to Express Auto Repair at 3222 North 40th Street Wednesday afternoon after getting tips that criminals were hanging out at the business. Instead of collaring crooks, they discovered stolen cars.
Investigators worked overnight and through the workday Thursday seizing almost everything on the property.
“Everything in here is part of the investigation, it’s considered a chop shop so everything in here now has to be gone through to determine who’s the owner, if its stolen or not,” said Tampa Police Spokesperson, Eddie Durkin.
Every vehicle, car part, and machine at the shop was loaded up and towed away.
In all, investigators say they confiscated 85 cars, trucks and SUVs. That includes a 2012 Nissan Altima swiped from Temple Terrace, a 1996 Buick Park Avenue stolen from Tampa and then used in a carjacking, and a 14-foot aluminum trailer taken from someone in Tampa.
“It is a big deal,” Durkin said. “Hopefully it will allow us, though, to solve a whole bunch of other crimes and then stop crime from happening in the future.”
But this bust is far from a closed case. Investigators still need to track down who was running the illegal chop shop. When officers arrived, no one would admit they worked at the repair shop.
“There were a couple people here and they all said they were customers,” said Durkin.
Mixed in with the swiped cars are legitimate customers. Officials have just started matching those autos to their owners, and say every single vehicle will be processed so it gets back to who it belongs to.
“There is a chance that some of it is not stolen, and some of it has already been returned to the owners,” Durkin said.
The vehicles are now in the impound lot.
If you dropped your car off at Express Auto Repair you need to speak with Tampa Police to get it back.