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Published: Wednesday, 2/13/2013

Feds kept close eye on alleged chop shop

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A local trucking company that federal investigators allege was a large-scale chop shop operation was under heavy surveillance for more than four months before federal agents raided it last week.

In U.S. District Court on Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Paul Cruz testified that investigators watched from a pole camera the goings-on at a Sterling Street location where stolen tractor-trailer rigs and cargo were dismantled and shipped out. GPS devices attached to two of the vehicles that frequently drove in and out of the property tracked the whereabouts of some of those believed involved in the operation, he said, and police photographed the suspects when they reached their destinations.

“When one of the vehicles leaves, we track it by GPS,” Agent Cruz said. “The subjects frequent truck stops to quote-unquote shop for what they’d like to steal.”

All six men arrested last Thursday appeared in federal court Tuesday for hearings intended to establish whether the government had probable cause to pursue a charge of unlawful transport of stolen property in interstate commerce against each of them.

The five arrested last Thursday — Michael Wymer, 54; Gary Wymer, 55; Shawn Wymer, 27; Terrance Wymer, Jr., 28, and Michael Deutsch, 37 — waived the hearings, but Robert DeBolt, Jr., 47, who was arrested Friday, went forward with his.

Agent Cruz testified that Mr. DeBolt was seen frequenting the Sterling Street location, that cell- phone records placed him in the vicinity of where a trailer loaded with scrap aluminum was stolen, and that Pennsylvania State Police observed and photographed him delivering the stolen scrap in New Castle, Pa.

Brian Jones, attorney for Mr. DeBolt, argued the evidence only proved Mr. DeBolt worked as a truck driver, not that he was aware anything else was going on.

Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong disagreed. She found probable cause existed for cases to proceed against all six defendants.

She also ordered that Michael Wymer and Michael Deutsch remain in custody, while the other four were allowed to be released from jail with conditions that included they have no contact with each other or with potential witnesses or victims in the case.

Magistrate Armstrong ordered that Gary Wymer and Shawn Wymer be released on electronic monitoring once the equipment becomes available. Terrance Wymer is to be released once a bed becomes available at COMPASS Corp. for Recovery Services, and Mr. DeBolt was released to the custody of his sister in Woodville.



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