POLK COUNTY MAN SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON
FOR OPERATING A CHOP SHOP
March 1, 2011
Summerville Also Distributed Controlled Substances at His Business
Rome, GA - JOHNNY LEE SUMMERVILLE, 61, of Cedartown, Georgia was sentenced today by United States District Judge Harold L. Murphy on charges that he operated a chop shop, removed and altered vehicle identification numbers on motor vehicles, possessed motor vehicles with altered and removed vehicle identification numbers, and possessed a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. SUMMERVILLE was sentenced to serve 5 years in federal prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. SUMMERVILLE was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $191,264.88. In connection with the drug conviction, the Court imposed a $200,000 forfeiture money judgment.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Under the guise of operating a legitimate auto salvage business, this defendant bought and sold stolen motor vehicles and heavy equipment. By doing so, he provided incentive to thieves who would steal motor vehicles and heavy equipment with knowledge that they could sell the stolen vehicles and equipment to the defendant. The Safe Streets Task Force of Northwest Georgia will continue to address the problem of vehicle thefts in Northwest Georgia by investigating and prosecuting individuals who operate chop shops like the defendant did. The sentence handed down today reflects the serious nature of this offense.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Between January 2001 and October 6, 2009, SUMMERVILLE operated a chop shop at his junk yard located at 3870 Collard Valley Road, Cedartown, Georgia, and would, from time to time, obtain motor vehicles that he knew were stolen. He would then purchase a wrecked or salvage vehicle that was close to the same make, model and year as the stolen vehicle, but that had a clear title, and would remove the VIN from the salvage vehicle. To conceal that the stolen vehicle was in fact stolen, he replaced the stolen car’s VIN with the VIN plate from the wrecked or salvage vehicle. Then he sold the stolen vehicle with the “clear” VIN to a buyer who believed that there was a clear title for the vehicle. SUMMERVILLE also carried out the same VIN-swapping scheme with regard to stolen heavy equipment.
SUMMERVILLE was the subject of an undercover investigation conducted by the members of the Safe Streets Task Force of Northwest Georgia. During the undercover investigation, the informant and an undercover police officer purchased a stolen vehicle and a stolen piece of heavy equipment from SUMMERVILLE. The informant also reported that SUMMERVILLE was distributing a controlled substance at his business. On two occasions the informant and the undercover agent bought from SUMMERVILLE quantities of Dihydrocodeinone, which is a Schedule III controlled substance.
On October 6, 2009, federal, state and local law enforcement officers with the Safe Streets Task Force of Northwest Georgia executed a search warrant at Summerville's business. During the execution of the search warrant, the officers located and seized numerous stolen motor vehicles and heavy equipment. The officers also seized a number of other motor vehicles and heavy equipment with VIN plates that were either altered or removed.
On December 9, 2010, SUMMERVILLE pleaded guilty to one count of operating a chop shop and one count of distributing a controlled substance.
The investigation was conducted by law enforcement officers with the Safe Streets Task Force of Northwest Georgia which is comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Polk County Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bartow County Drug Task Force. Special Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and police officers with the Floyd County Police Department assisted in the investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys William L. McKinnon, Jr. and Jeff Viscomi prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.