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Salvage yard with stolen vehicles got city property tax break

A Chicago Police car guards entrance Adelman's Truck   Equipment yard 3033 E. 106th Chicago. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

A Chicago Police car guards the entrance to Adelman's Truck & Equipment yard at 3033 E. 106th in Chicago. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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Updated: May 3, 2014 6:15AM

An “embarrassed” Southeast Side alderman vowed Tuesday to recoup the property tax savings he championed for a truck-sales company at the center of an investigation into stolen vehicles.

Two years ago, Ald. John Pope (10th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel persuaded the City Council colleagues to approve an incentive that allowed Adelman’s Truck and Equipment Corp. to forge ahead with a $2.5 million expansion of its facility at 3033 E. 106th.

The subsidy will cost Chicago taxpayers roughly $162,000 over a dozen years. In exchange, the company that sells trucks, trailers, parts and equipment vowed to add 24 jobs to a skeletal staff of four.

“These projects will support new investment, strengthen our economy and create new job opportunities for residents,” Emanuel said at the time.

Now Adelman’s finds itself embroiled in a police investigation.

Police suspect the facility was operating as a chop shop with 19 suspected stolen vehicles — and possibly more — found on the lot since Monday, Chicago Police said.

One person was in custody early Tuesday in connection with the operation, a source said.

Police launched their investigation after a family began scouring the neighborhood for a missing white truck Monday. The truck’s owner spotted the vehicle on the salvage yard property and called police.

Investigators then discovered more suspected stolen vehicles, including a stripped Jeep with a working engine.

The South Chicago police district, where the business is located, has seen a spike in auto thefts this year.

Motor vehicle theft was up 275 percent between March 3 and March 9 and up 22 percent between Jan. 1 and March 9, according to the police department.

“I’m shocked, embarrassed, surprised,” Pope said of the probe at Adelman’s.

“If it’s found true that they were doing this and within their knowledge, I would look to recoup those monies from them,” he said. “Up until yesterday, they operated a very good business. They were a model. Then this came about. I’m offended.”

Still, Pope said he has no regrets about the tax break. It helped seal a deal for Adelman’s Trucking to shift its operations from Canton, Ohio, to Chicago’s Southeast Side, he said.

“We were able to get them on the property that was former Wisconsin Steel property — one of the first developments on that site that helped to move that whole development forward. Now we see others who are interested. They were actually looking at expanding,” Pope said.

Adelman’s, founded in 1926, is a “world-wide, multi-faceted organization serving customers on six continents,” its website says. The company sells heavy duty trucks, trailers, parts and equipment.

No one is charged with wrongdoing in connection with the stolen vehicles discovered at the facility. Police have not offered an explanation for how the stolen vehicles got there or what was to become of them.

A Chicago Police source said thieves have gravitated to scrap yards and auto-parts dealers over the past decade because they’ve become increasingly unregulated.

The Secretary of State’s office is authorized to conduct random inspections of the yards, but it doesn’t have enough inspectors to check every facility routinely, the source said.

Chicago Police officers can arrange to review the books of yards claiming to be “dealers” but don’t have the power to conduct unannounced inspections unless they have evidence of a crime, the source said.

“Our police officers are somewhat hampered,” the source said.

Sometimes, auto theft rings involve rogue tow-truck drivers who deliver stolen vehicles to a yard. The driver might receive $400 for the vehicle. The yard can then sell the vehicle to a steel mill for more than $2,000, the source said.

Drug dealers have gravitated to the scrap industry as a way to launder their illicit profits, the source added.

Last year, Sergio Quintero, the owner of a Southwest Side salvage yard, was charged with possession of eight school buses. They were stolen from Sunrise Transportation in the 10000 block of South Torrence — about a mile away from Adelman’s Truck and Equipment Corp.

Police tracked the 40-foot buses using GPS devices in the vehicles. They were found at Gonzalez Auto Parts and Dismantling in the 3400 block of South Lawndale.

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