A major chop shop was dismantled this morning when detectives from the multiagency Taskforce for Regional Auto Theft Prevention obtained arrest warrants for four individuals, including a retired LAPD officer.
Former police officer James Ruffner, 66, was found to be in possession of a trailer stolen from the LAPD's Mission Division, valued at $10,000. The vehicle identification number (VIN) on the stolen trailer was replaced/swapped with a number from a different trailer, which Ruffner registered in his name. He was booked at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station and released after posting bond.
Nellson George Vels, 50, owner of Billets Works classic car restoration at 26858 Ruether Avenue, Unit G in Canyon Country, along with John Michael Landon, 38, and Daryl Lee Perkins, 50, were arrested this morning and are being held on suspicion of operating a chop shop, grand theft auto and receiving stolen vehicles.
Vels and Perkins are being held at the Santa Clarita Valley station; Landon was arrested by the San Fernando Police Department and is being held at that station. Bail for Vels was set at $160,000, while Perkins and Landon are being held in lieu of $115,000 bail. No court dates have been set.
The case stems from a business inspection of a storage lot in Santa Clarita, where three stolen trailers and one classic stolen 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible were identified. The theft ring conspired to steal vehicles and car trailers, remove parts from stolen vehicles and exchange/swap VIN numbers between vehicles. The vehicles recovered were stolen from the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valley areas.
Detectives are asking for the public's help in providing any information to law enforcement regarding the case. Any customers of Billets Works or member of United Muscle Car Association, Santa Clarita chapter, that have had their vehicles stolen are asked to contact LAPD/TRAP Detective George Molina at (818) 830-6977.