Deputies with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department made 10 arrests when a stolen vehicle case led them to a building that appeared to be part chop-shop, part marijuana grow house, part honey-oil manufactory.

It all began when deputies began investigating a report of a stolen vehicle. That investigation led deputies to a building in the unincorporated community of Nuevo. Deputies arrived around 9 pm and were greeted by the sight of individuals fleeing from the property – individuals who were later detained. Upon their initial inspection, deputies not only discovered the vehicle they were looking for, but also evidence of two marijuana grows.

After obtaining a search warrant, deputies were able to conduct a more thorough search of the property. During their search, they discovered five allegedly stolen vehicles, 1,734 marijuana plants, a butane honey oil lab, and a working chop-shop. A “sales amount” of methamphetamine was also found on the property.

The 10 arrests included suspects with ages ranging from 26 to 48, and the charges included possession of stolen property, possession of stolen vehicles, operating a chop shop, marijuana cultivation, manufacturing butane honey oil, and possession of methamphetamine for sale.

While many of these crimes are commonplace, it’s relatively rare that chop shops are discovered. Covered under California Vehicle Code 10801 VC, operating a chop shop is defined as any place where someone knowingly alters, takes apart, or stores a stolen motor vehicle or vehicle part, for the purpose of selling it, disposing of it, or hiding its identity.

Operating a chop shop is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case. When charged as a misdemeanor the potential penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. When charged as a felony, the potential penalties include up to 4 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000. It is also possible to be sentenced to formal or summary probation.