TORRANCE COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Dozens of stolen vehicles were seized by authorities from a private property Friday.
Investigators say it’s a widespread auto theft case affecting many people in and around Albuquerque.
Sky News 13 video shows hundreds of vehicles on a lot near Tajique. Detectives say many of the vehicles could be stolen.
“There’s about 276 vehicles on this property alone and the owner’s not a licensed dealer of any kind,” said Albuquerque Police Department (APD) spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos.
In fact, an APD auto theft detective blew open the case after looking at stolen VIN numbers that led him to vehicles on the property. A search warrant was served for the six-acre property.
“We have discovered that there’s so far 15 confirmed stolen vehicles, and another 20 vehicles that are possibly stolen,” said Gallegos.
Described as used ‘junk vehicles,’ detectives have been working long hours to determine where they all came from. Some of the stolen goods were from as far away as the Navajo Nation.
Locals have seen the stories of the Albuquerque area’s auto theft problem time and again.
“The prospect now is there are probably many stolen vehicles driving around Albuquerque or other communities right now that are tied to the vin numbers of this property,” said Gallegos.
Investigators are calling it a ‘chop shop’ that could potentially lead to an auto theft ring. They said the surrounding properties are owned by members of the same family, but so far they have only found stolen vehicles on the one property.
Still, detectives say people in Albuquerque may have unknowingly bought stolen vehicles tied to VIN numbers from the property.
Authorities say it’s the beginning of a lengthy case. APD and multiple state agencies are investigating. Detectives have not named the suspects because charges have not been filed yet.