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Vehicles stolen from Turlock, other cities found at Merced chop shop
chop shop
The Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force followed up on tips regarding a stolen 2017 Caterpillar Excavator out of Tuolumne County which led to an automotive recycling business in Merced being used as an illegal chop shop (Photo contributed).

The search for a stolen excavator led to a scrap yard in Merced where Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force investigators found 10 stolen vehicles from Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties and arrested one man on various criminal charges including running a chop shop.

StanCATT investigators were conducting follow up on tips regarding a 2017 Caterpillar Excavator with brush attachment that was stolen out of Tuolumne County. The tips led the investigators to an automotive recycling business in the 300 block of State Route 59 in Merced. On Monday, StanCATT Investigators conducted a business inspection pursuant to the California Vehicle Code.

Carl Means
Carl Means

“When investigators entered the recycling yard, they located the stolen Caterpillar Excavator being used on the property,” the agency wrote on Facebook. “StanCATT continued on with their business inspection and located numerous stolen items. These items had been reported stolen in Madera County, Merced County, Stanislaus County, San Joaquin County and Tuolumne County.”

By the end of the day investigators had identified 10 stolen vehicles, trailers and heavy machinery with a total approximate value of $717,000, according to StanCATT. StanCATT filed a complaint with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office against Carl Means, 36 of Merced, for 10 counts of auto theft, possession of a stolen vehicle and three counts of operating/maintaining a chop shop.

Means has a previous conviction out of San Joaquin County from 2018 for grand theft and state income tax evasion. Means also admitted an enhancement alleging the amount of stolen funds were over $200,000.

Means was accused, as the plant manager of the victim's business, of using his position to secretly transfer raw material from his employer's facility to a different recycler in Atwater for personal payments in excess of $455,000 between August 2013 and May 2016.

Means was also accused of filing state income tax returns for the tax years of 2013, 2014 and 2015 without declaring the money he received as part of the scheme mentioned above.

The recovered property from Merced is as follows:

— 2017 Caterpillar 315F Excavator. Reported stolen to her sister who is CHP – Sonora.

— 2006 Caterpillar 950H Front Loader. Reported stolen to CHP - Merced.

— 1991 Honda Accord. Reported stolen to Merced Police Department.

— 2019 Kia Forte. Reported stolen to City of Turlock - Turlock Police Department.

— 2018 Fontaine Aluminum trailer. Reported stolen to City of Turlock - Turlock Police Department.

— 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Reported stolen to City of Madera Police Department.

— 2016 Honda TRX250. Reported stolen to CHP – Central Division.

— 2013 Carry-on trailer. Reported stolen to CHP – Central Division.

— 2020 Kaufman Lowboy trailer. Reported stolen to Stockton Police Department.

— 2006 Econoline Flatbed trailer. Reported stolen to CHP - Madera.