ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Authorities say an arrest made in the theft of a vehicle led to Orangeburg County Sheriff's investigators ending the county's largest chop shop operation.
According to Sheriff Leroy Ravenell, this latest arrest is what initially led investigators to more than 30 stolen vehicles in the chop shop operation last week.
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"We developed leads on this first stolen truck, which led to us to the first property where multiple vehicles were determined to have been stolen as well," he said. "Executing a search warrant for the property turned up 19 vehicles in various states of condition that were stolen."
Herman Johnson, 41, was charged with one count of grand larceny. His charge is not to be interpreted as part of the chop shop operation, the sheriff said.
Johnson appeared in court on Thursday where bond was denied.
Investigator Riley Godwin had asked the court to deny bond or set a surety bond at $1M after explaining Johnson has been in and out of trouble since 2002 on similar charges.
Thomas Washington, 64, was arrested last week and charged with two counts of operating a chop shop and also 23 counts of receiving stolen goods.
Investigators say the illegal operation on Washington's two properties was shut down after OCSO investigators located the pickup truck reported stolen on June 27 from a Big Buck Boulevard residence.
Security cameras at the home recorded the victim's 2001 Chevrolet being hauled off by a truck and trailer combo.
That led to Washington's Canaan Road business where 19 vehicle were discovered to be stolen. Another 16 were found at Washington's Hope Lane property in Bowman.
Investigators spent several days checking more than 150 vehicles on the two properties to determine if they were stolen.