Crime Trackers: PCSD detective working off duty uncovers major a - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: PCSD detective working off duty uncovers major auto theft ring

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Ryan Park Ryan Park

It was a case of  "mine, not yours" at a swap meet over the weekend.

When Pima County Sheriff's Auto Theft detective was off-duty, he came across two men, arguing about a vehicle.

One man claimed it was his truck. The other man said he owned it and had the keys to prove it. Luckily, the deputy had just completed special training for cases like that.

The training helped him uncover an auto theft ring.

A broken window, a dented bumper and a key that opened the door.  That's how the victim identified his 1997 pickup truck to Det. Eric Heath.

Heath was working off-duty at the swap meet when he heard two men arguing.

“Turned out that it was actually our true victim's stolen truck via the concealed VINs we found on the vehicle,” he said.

38-year-old Ryan Park was driving the truck. He also claimed ownership. He said  it was a 1986 model, as the altered VIN number indicated.

Officials said Park had recently been released from prison after serving three years for trafficking in stolen property and running a chop shop.

“The VIN switch out that he did was actually pretty well done," Det. Heath said. "I was barely able to tell that the VIN number didn't belong to that truck .”

Over the weekend, he got a search warrant that was served by the SWAT team at Park’s home in Sahuarita.

14 vehicles were confiscated, including a motor home, an ATV and three trailers.  They also found evidence of a chop shop.  The detective said they have uncovered six stolen vehicles so far through the concealed numbers.

On one case, there was a black pickup the insurance company had totaled.  The VIN number was switched with a truck that was stolen in May.

Detectives opened the trailers. Inside two of them, they found furniture among other things.  They believed those items may have been stolen.

Lt. Doug Hanna gave kudos the detectives.

“It was very good teamwork between the different divisions in the criminal investigations unit who helped with the case," said Lt. Hanna.

He said Det. Heath had also just returned from specialized training to detect  VIN identification fraud.  A training that proved to be invaluable.

Ryan Park is charged with eight counts of stolen vehicles and six counts of running a chop shop.

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