Toledo family accused of huge chop shop


TOLEDO (AP) -- Nearly 21 years ago, Toledo police broke up what was then believed to be the largest stolen truck ring and chop shop operation in the Midwest.

After bursting through the gates of the Wymer Trucking Co. on West Alexis Road during a March 16, 1992, raid, authorities discovered stolen tractor-trailer rigs, truck cabs, and dozens of engines, tranmission systems, fuel tanks, and other parts.

The brothers who owned the trucking firm -- Michael Wymer, Gary Wymer, and Terrance Wymer -- were eventually convicted in state court of charges ranging from receiving stolen property to racketeering for their roles in the ring that dismantled stolen vehicles so the parts could be sold.

On Thursday, Michael Wymer, 54, and Gary Wymer, 55, were among six suspects identified by authorities as being involved in a new chop-shop operation that produced more than $2 million in stolen tractor-trailer rigs and cargo over a four-month period.

The Wymers, as well as Shawn Wymer, 27, who is Michael Wymer's son; Terrance Wymer Jr., 28, and Michael Deutsch, 37, were arrested after early morning searches at 2322 Consaul St. in East Toledo, where authorities allege the suspects took the rigs and cargo to be dismantled, destroyed, concealed, or altered.

Parts from the trucks and trailers and cargo items were then sold as scrap metal to recycling companies, sold on the Internet, or used by suspects in the operation to commit other crimes, according to an FBI complaint. The stolen cargo included all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles and thousands upon thousands of pounds of scrap metal, the affidavit stated.

"They'd chop them and sell them for scrap," FBI Special Agent Joseph Callahan said at a press conference in One Government Center in downtown Toledo.

"This was a highly organized group that stole from people throughout the region," added Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for northern Ohio.

Federal agents, who were assisted in the raid by the Ohio Highway Patrol and Toledo Police, also searched Michael Wymer's home at 661 Sterling St., and nearby property at 642 Sterling, where agents said truck parts and cargo were taken to be dismantled and altered.

The men are being held without bond in the Lucas County jail. They were arraigned Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court on charges of unlawful transport of stolen property in interstate commerce. Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong scheduled detention hearings for the five defendants on Tuesday.

Also charged in the ring is Robert Debolt, Jr., 47. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

The complaint said the investigation began in September when agents positioned a video camera outside the 642 Sterling address and the agents later hid an electronic tracking device in a semi truck and car owned by relatives of Michael Wymer.

The truck was used in late September to transport a stolen trailer with all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles from Williams County to the Sterling Street property, where about a week later a tractor-trailer rig that was stolen in Elyria, was taken, the affidavit said.

The tracking device on Wymer's truck showed it was used in mid-October to tranport a stolen trailer with 41,885 pounds of aluminum scrap metal from near Bloomville, in Seneca County to the Wymer property on Sterling, and then to a metal scrapping business in New Castle, Pa., the complaint said.

In late November, the same truck was used to transport a stolen trailer with more than $5,000 in aluminum shavings from Warren, Ind., to Sterling Street and later to a scrap yard in New Castle, the federal complaint said.

The operation was strikingly similar to the truck theft ring that Michael and Gary Wymer began in August, 1991, and turned over more than $5 million in stolen property. Michael Wymer pleaded guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity under the state's racketeering law and was sentenced in 1993 to six to 25 years in prison.

Gary Wymer entered a guilty plea to three counts of retaining stolen property, and received two years in prison. Terrance Wymer, who pleaded guilty to two counts of the same charge, was placed on probation.

J. Christopher Anderson, an assistant prosecutor who worked on the case, said the men targeted idling tractor trailers at interstate rest areas, stealing the rigs when the drivers went into restrooms.

"This was a huge operation, and they got this stuff turned over so quickly," said Anderson, adding that parts from up to six or more vehicles were used to build new trucks that were sold.

Mr. Anderson said thefts were made at locations at least 50 miles outside Toledo, where the crimes would be reported to other FBI offices, such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Indianapolis, but not to Toledo agents.

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