The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man this week who is accused of operating a chop shop for nearly a decade.
Deputies arrested Joel Carter, 63, of Wanette.
Carter has been charged with operating a chop shop, four counts of possessing a stolen vehicle, possession of firearm after former felony conviction and possession of controlled dangerous substance.
Investigators said Carter has been on the department's radar for some time after other investigations into stolen property in the county.
“He would receive stolen property and stolen vehicles from various sources,” said Pottawatomie County investigator Marcus May. “Once they came to his property, he was involved in stripping the vehicles down by parts, taking all of the parts off for illegal sale.”
During a recent search warrant, only four vehicles were able to be identified as stolen. The vehicles were traced back to Pottawatomie, Oklahoma, Cleveland and Comanche counties.
Investigators think the operation went on for some time, as a stolen vehicle was discovered on the property from 2014.
“Of the four stolen vehicles that we recovered that day, only one was intact and drivable,” said May. “The other three were stripped down, all the way down to the axel and to the frame of the vehicle.”
The vehicle that was intact and drivable has been returned to its owner.
The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public to always lock your vehicle and make sure keys are not left inside.
May said in his experience, criminals mainly steal vehicles in "crimes of opportunity."
“Hopefully this is a deterrent for him or other people like him who operate these types of illegal businesses and chop shops and a deterrent for others who are actually doing the vehicles larcenies and burglaries and concealing them at these types of places,” said May.
Investigators urge the public to save your vehicle’s VIN number. It’s that information they use to get stolen vehicles back to its rightful owner.
Carter has bonded out of the Pottawatomie County jail on a $7,500 bond. He is due back in court on May 4.