Cops seize stolen cars, parts; owner of tow yard arrested
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters June 27, 2013 1:30AM
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:11AM
About 100 vehicles, new tires and engines “so new you can eat off them” were seized early Thursday from a South Side tow yard whose owner is suspected of trafficking in stolen vehicles and auto parts.
Detectives and a convoy of flatbed tow trucks descended on the gravel lot at 64th and Bell on Wednesday night to begin removing the vehicles.
Among those vehicles confirmed stolen was a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am taken during an armed robbery and carjacking Monday morning on the South Side, as well as a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reported stolen Sunday, police said.
The tow trucks worked into the morning hours, bringing the vehicles to a police lot where detectives will continue their investigation, police said.
As of Thursday afternoon, investigators confirmed 10 pieces of stolen equipment, including cars, a tow truck and two construction trailers.
The owner of the tow yard, who police said was able to supply titles for only five vehicles, was arrested and taken to the Chicago Lawn district station, police said. No charges had been filed by Thursday afternoon.
As tow trucks rumbled in and out of the lot, “Frank” thumbed through car titles, like he was counting $100 bills.
“It’s not a chop shop,” said the man who identified himself as the brother of the owner and would only give his first name.
If his brother had been running a chop shop, he’d have had tarps to cover the stolen vehicles, Frank said.
“We ain’t got no tarps to be chopping up no cars,” said Frank, a beefy guy with tattoos scrawled on his arms. “It’s a misunderstanding.”
To prove it, Frank pulled out the car titles — 20 or so, but he was working on finding a few dozen more, he said.
He said his brother runs a legitimate business called “Little Ray’s Towing.” The sprawling lot ringed with rusting cyclone fencing holds vehicles that are insured and are towed there after accidents — at the request of the owners, Frank said. Insurance companies then come to inspect them for claim purposes, he said.
But a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection could find no evidence Thursday of a business license for the towing company.
By mid-morning, perhaps two dozen vehicles remained in a lot strewn with old tires and a cobweb-covered lawn mower — among other things.
In one corner of the lot sat a trailer canopy with a barbecue out front and some gray vinyl bucket seats.
Frank said his brother keeps six dogs — three German shepherds, two Rottweilers and a pit bull — for security.
Once the cops showed up Wednesday, no one was allowed onto the lot — even to give the dogs food or water, Frank said.
“It’s animal cruelty,” Frank said. “It was so hot. They were in the sun.”
Leroy Ball, 37, showed up at the lot Thursday morning in search of his white 2000 Cadillac Seville, which he said was stolen Monday or Tuesday from outside a buddy’s house in the city. The water pump needed to be replaced, but there was no good reason for anyone to tow it, Ball said.
“The body was fine, everything was fine and everything was up to date,” Ball explained.
He said he showed up at the lot after his little brother called him and said he’d seen the story about the seizure on the news.
Ball got some good news — he spoke to a lot employee who said, yes, there had been a white Cadillac like his on the property. So Ball left, heading for the Far South Side, where he was told the car had been taken.
“It’s wrong when somebody takes things that don’t belong to them,” Ball said before he left.