Clayton officer helps shutter chop shop

sgilman@newsobserver.comFebruary 16, 2014 

Brian Temple, Clayton’s police officer of the year in 2013, played a role recently in breaking up a truck-theft operation that spanned eight counties. Through his detective work over six months, he helped recover nearly $1 million in stolen property.

The chop shop was at 813 Moores Pond Road in Youngsville in Franklin County. An aerial photo shows the property littered with trucks and truck parts.

“Literally, diesel engines were just sitting out there in the yard,” Temple said.

The Clayton officer said he had never seen a chop shop of that caliber. “They had it down to a science,” he said. “They’d have a full 18-wheeler truck scrapped in about two hours.”

Temple’s role in this crime story began last summer. On Aug. 11, Clayton police received a report of a theft at Source Recycling at 440 S. Tech Park Lane. Employees had arrived that morning to find their gate sabotaged, their cranes hot-wired, two 18-wheelers missing and 40,000 pounds of aluminum wheels and 21,000 pounds of copper gone.

“They used our cranes to load a truck they had allegedly stolen,” said owner Jody Standley. “And they did about $30,000 worth of damage to the computer systems on the cranes they hot-wired.”

Standley said his company has recovered none of its losses.

In December, Temple got his first break in the case. Police in Statesville had arrested Lamont Andre McKoy of 588 Pinkney Church Road, Fremont, after he tried to sell scrap metals at L. Gordon Iron and Metal Co. An employee of the Statesville company recognized the emblem on the side of the truck McKoy was driving and suspected it was stolen.

McKoy’s arrest on Dec. 5 led to another name, Sonny Marks of 951 Lenoir Blvd. in Hickory. At the time of his arrest, McKoy had been using Marks’ identity to sell scrap metal. The Statesville arrest brought Harnett County law enforcement in on the action, and the search continued for what authorities now thought to be a major chop shop.

The thefts continued. On Nov. 18, an 18-wheeler belonging to Source Recycling turned up at L. Gordon Iron and Metal Co. It had gone missing early that morning from Tart’s Salvage in Dunn.

Recycling companies transport materials back and forth in their 18-wheelers, which is why the Source Recycling rig was parked for the night at Tart’s Salvage, Temple said.

When Temple saw the theft report, complete with a photo of a white truck with the number 276 printed on the side, he thought it looked familiar. It was almost exactly like the truck stolen back in August from Source Recycling.

By 9 a.m., however, the truck had been scrapped.

Also in December, a Source Recycling customer divulged to Standley that he suspected McKoy was responsible for the August break-in at his business, and Standley relayed the name to Temple. Armed with McKoy’s name, Temple was better able to continue his investigation.

With Johnston and Harnett law enforcement working on the case, Franklin County officers soon jumped on board. Franklin County had also been experiencing thefts of 18-wheelers, and it had received multiple complaints about the unsightly property on Moores Pond Road.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department obtained a search warrant for that property, owned by Roger Nipper, and when they arrived on scene, they easily identified the remains of stolen vehicles.

“It’s just kind of crazy that they literally would scrap a whole truck but leave the writing on the door with the company’s name,” Temple said. “We’d call the owners of the company and say, ‘Hey, did you have a truck stolen?’”

Investigators think McKoy and Marks had been working together to steal trucks that they would drive to Nipper’s property, where they would cut them apart to sell as scrap metal. Nipper ran a garage shop in the front of his property. Police think the three would drive stolen trucks behind some trees where no one could see them work.

Before long, police had recovered 14 stolen trucks worth about $1 million. The trucks had come from eight counties.

“They kept busy, that’s for sure,” Temple said of the thieves.

Nipper and Marks were held in the Franklin County jail under $140,000 and $35,000 bonds, respectively. McKoy has not yet been arrested.

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