Florida Court Upholds Chop Shop Conviction

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A Florida appeals court has upheld the conviction of a man accused in a 2004 West Palm Beach chop shop case.

Henry Vargas was arrested in a sheriff’s task force sting operation in 2004. During the operation, deputies told suspected thieves they would provide a warehouse for dismantling motorcycles. They set up the warehouse and “pushed the ringleaders to get more workers,” according to the appellate decision published on Leagle.

Vargas was one of those workers, and he was arrested along with others.

He sought acquittal several times at trial, but was convicted. He appealed the convictions, claiming the state had failed to prove that he knew or should have known that the operation was a chop shop or that the vehicles were stolen.

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions on dealing in stolen property, operating a chop shop, racketeering and conspiracy charges this week, saying the state had proven its case.

“Sufficient evidence exists to show that the defendant knew the vehicles and motorcycle parts were stolen. The vehicles which the defendant dismantled had visible signs that they were stolen. One vehicle's ignition had been tampered with so that it could be started without a key, and its front door handle had been tampered with so that an independent key could be used to open the door. Another vehicle's ignition was popped off the steering column and had cellophane wrap covering the passenger side window. A third vehicle's ignition was dismantled and was being started with a screwdriver. That vehicle's door handle also had been tampered with to allow entry without a key. After dismantling these obviously-tampered vehicles, the defendant loaded the vehicle parts and the motorcycle parts into shipping containers,” the decision says.

Posted by Holly Wagner