ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said investigators have shut down what is believed to be the largest chop shop operation in Orangeburg County's history.
"We have seized more than 30 vehicles valued at an estimated $180,000," the sheriff said. "We're working now to determine the rightful owner of these vehicles."
According to Ravenell, 64-year-old Thomas Washington has so far been charged with two counts of chop shop and 23 counts of receiving stolen goods.
Washington's bond was denied on an initial charge of chop shop last week.
"On Saturday, the Bowman man went before Orangeburg County Magistrate Jacob Gillens, who set bond on the Bowman man at $28,790 combined for the second chop shop charges and the receiving stolen goods charges," OCSO officials said. "During an ongoing investigation that started last week, investigators seized 35 vehicles of different makes and models in addition to several engines that had been removed from more vehicles."
The OCSO seizure happened at two locations within the county.
Ravenell said the illegal operation unraveled when investigators located two stolen vehicles for which they had been searching at a Canaan Road business owned by Washington.
"Investigators returned to the property on Wednesday to execute search warrants aimed at checking more vehicles," OCSO officials said."Another location, on Hope Lane in Bowman, turned up at least 16 vehicles that had been reported stolen."
According to a report, tore than 150 vehicles were personally checked by investigators on the two properties over several days last week.
"We're inspecting more vehicles and engines from the properties to see if they were stolen as well," Ravenell said. "But the vehicles we have connected with an owner are being released to that rightful owner."
Ravenell said multiple detectives and staff members have been a part of the ongoing investigation that was initiated by Inv. Kip Nelson.
More charges are expected, the sheriff said.