On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) Vehicle Theft Task Force (VTTF) arrested five suspects following an investigation related to a chop shop operation, stolen vehicles and the sale of illegal drugs in Phoenix.
A VTTF investigation revealed Edgar Gonzalez-Nino was operating a chop shop and selling illegal drugs from a business located at 2918 W. McDowell Road in Phoenix. Criminals would deliver stolen vehicles to the business and purchase illegal drugs from Mr. Gonzalez-Nino.
Detectives recovered two stolen vehicles, firearms, and illegal drugs during the search warrant at the business address.
Detectives also served search warrants at two residences related to the investigation and linked to Mr. Gonzalez-Nino, where they recovered firearms, illegal drugs, and four stolen trailers. During the search warrants, VTTF detectives arrested five people:
- Edgar Humberto Elias Gonzalez-Nino (35), Phoenix
- Theft of means of transportation (three counts)
- Operating a chop shop
- Misconduct involving weapons (four counts)
- Possession of narcotics
- Danica Maez (25), Phoenix
- Narcotics for sale (two counts)
- Narcotic transportation
- Weapon prohibited possessor (two counts)
- Misconduct involving weapons during drug offense (two counts)
- Possession of dangerous drugs
- Possession of drug paraphernalia (two counts)
- Jose Daniel Barragan-Meza (27), Phoenix
- Felony warrant - Failure to appear for vehicle theft
- Adrian Rodriguez (23), Phoenix
- Felony warrant - Parole violation for narcotic possession
- Roberto Carreon (40), Phoenix
- Felony warrant (U.S. Marshals Service) - Alien smuggling
VTTF detectives recovered the following:
- Chevrolet Impala (reported stolen)
- Four stolen trailers
- Engine & vehicle parts from a stolen Nissan Maxima
- $56,757 in U.S. currency
- Six firearms
- 1.6 pounds of fentanyl pills
- .0288 pounds of methamphetamine
- .7 pounds of marijuana
“Stolen vehicles are not just a property crime,” said VTTF Captain Paul Etnire. “Stolen vehicles provide a lucrative source of income, and it is not unusual to see stolen vehicles linked to other criminal activities.”
The VTTF is administered and led by AZDPS and organized under the Border Strike Force. It is comprised of city, county and state law enforcement agencies participating in a concerted effort to identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals and criminal organizations that profit from the theft of motor vehicles and related crimes. The VTTF provides a vital mission on behalf of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA) to reduce vehicle theft in Arizona by deterring criminal activity through effective and proactive enforcement, prosecution, and public awareness programs. VTTF is substantially funded by an annual grant from the AATA.