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Chop-Shop Owner Busted After Gearhead Recognizes His Stolen Engine in Another Car

If your engine was ripped out of your car, would you be able to spot your engine if you ever saw it?

For one Peoria man, the answer to that question is "yes," and a chop-shop owner was busted after the victim recognized the engine from his stolen Ford Mustang had been placed in another Mustang, which was for sale on Craigslist.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, the victim's Mustang -- an earlier fourth-generation Mustang GT, per one of the victim's Facebook photos -- was stolen from his driveway in the middle of the night on January 25.

Two days later, police found the Mustang in Maryvale, with no engine, transmission, wheels, computer, brake rotors, or calipers.

Fast forward months later, to June 22, when the victim called Peoria police, saying he recognized his engine in another Mustang on a Craigslist ad. He told police he had seen ads describing a modified engine that sounded like his, and the seller finally posted an ad with a photo of it.

The victim told police there were aftermarket parts he installed on the engine, as well as parts he personally fabricated -- much of which he was able to document for police.

An officer met with the seller, and confirmed what the victim had been saying. The seller told police he was selling the car for a friend, James Thompson, whom he knew through "street racing."

Police started focusing on Thompson, including getting enough evidence to serve two search warrants on storage lockers he rented. The contents didn't look very good for Thompson: an assortment of parts for both Mustangs and a variety of Honda vehicles, an engine hoist, a red Mustang with no engine or transmission, and some slotted brake rotors -- which had been stolen from the original victim's Mustang, according to court documents.

The cops actually tracked down the guy who previously owned the rest of the Mustang from that Craigslist ad, another street racer, who said the Mustang was almost completely stock when he traded it to Thompson for a Honda Civic.

Wouldn't you know it, Thompson has also been arrested before for running a chop-shop, and did more than four years in prison for auto theft.

Thompson skipped town and headed to New Mexico when police starting coming after him, but he just recently came back to the state, and someone tipped off police.

Thompson didn't admit guilt to police, but he "became nervous and stated he may have helped someone store items but would not elaborate," according to an officer's probable-cause statement.

He was booked into jail on charges of operating a chop-shop, and auto theft.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley