More charges to be added for six defendants in SP ‘chop shop’ case

May 08, 2013
Santa Paula News

A preliminary hearing for six defendants accused of being involved in a Santa Paula area vehicle “chop shop” was postponed Thursday after the prosecutor dismissed the charges in order to re-file the cases with additional criminal counts.

The defendants and others were arrested in March on various charges ranging from car theft to stripping stolen vehicles of stereos, wheels and other parts before abandoning the “chopped” cars. They are also facing conspiracy charges in the operation that investigators believe specialized mostly in early 1990s Honda vehicles.

The defendants acted as lookouts, stole cars, and helped to strip vehicles at the chop shop that operated out of a residential property on the 400 block of Grant Line in an unincorporated area of Santa Paula.

Two of those arrested, Joseph Banuelo Bracamontes, 40, and Rosemary Diaz, 28, were believed to be living at the Grant Line residence. The pair was arrested March 15 when more than 100 members of various law enforcement agencies served search warrants at numerous residences in Santa Paula, Ventura and Oxnard.

Also arrested were Santa Paula residents Robert Loza, 33; David Martinez Jr., 25; Aaron Alexander Morua, 25; David Jesus Velazquez, 25; and Juan Jaime Arias, 22. 

Former Santa Paula resident Justin Tyler Steele, 25, is now living Oxnard although he was arrested at Ventura County Jail. Ryan Anthony Ramos, 23, was arrested at his Ventura home. Steele and Ramos were arrested in January after a high-speed pursuit that started in Santa Barbara and ended in Oxnard where the vehicle -reported to be stolen - crashed.

Peter Bracamontes, 36, of Santa Paula was also arrested, but recently pleaded guilty to operating a chop shop and was sentenced to probation. The six defendants who appeared in court last week are Joseph Bracamontes, Steele, Martinez, Morua, Ramos, and Velazquez.

The investigation by the Ventura County Auto Theft Taskforce (VenCATT) and the Santa Paula Police Department started in December 2012.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. A date has not yet been set for the new preliminary hearing.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Loza and Diaz. Arias, another defendant, will be tried separately.

At the time of the arrests a statement noted that six of those taken into custody belong to the same street gang.

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