DETROIT (WXYZ) — When members of the Detroit Police Department's Commercial Auto Theft Section talk about 'surgeries,' they're referring to a detailed operation that involves criminals delicately removing a vehicle identification number from one vehicle and placing it onto a stolen one in an attempt to make it appear legit.
But most criminals are completely unaware everywhere VINs are located on a vehicle.
"They have no idea and that's something that we don't ever reveal," said Lt. Clive Stewart who heads up the Commercial Auto Theft Section, also known as CATS.
Thursday afternoon, CATS and officers from the 4th Precinct went to check the business license of a car repair shop on Michigan Avenue near Lonyo in Southwest Detroit.
Officers encountered two men and not only did they not have a license to operate, but there was evidence that the men were involved in surgeries on a number of stolen vehicles, according to police.
"Definitely a chop shop," said Lt. Stewart.
Among the stolen vehicles recovered was a Durango SRT that was stolen this year from a Chrysler lot, according to Stewart, who added that officers also discovered a Ford vehicle that was taken at gunpoint from one of the manufacturer's facilities.
Police obtained warrants to search the location as well as the home belonging to one of the men, located a couple of blocks away from the repair shop.
At the house on Cabot Street, police said they discovered additional vehicles matching the ones at the illegal business, pointing to the surgeries and swapping of VINs.
On Friday, Action News knocked on the door of the house and while you could see drapes moving, no one came to the door.
Action News spoke to a woman who lives across the street who said her neighbor is an honest man and if he did have illegal vehicles at his shop or home, she's sure he was unaware that they were stolen.
The two men, brothers, remained in custody Friday as police continued their investigation.
Stewart added, "Looking at the size of this operation, we expect there are more players involved."