Even in summer session, California State University students and staff expect to find their cars exactly where they were parked but investigators say they found two vehicles stolen from CSU Long Beach and Fullerton campuses in pieces last week when they arrested four men in a chop shop raid.
"One of the victims of this crime hadn't even known his car was stolen yet. We ended up contacting him; told us he was in process of looking for car in the parking lot,” said Lt. Dominic Valencia, of the LA County Sheriff's Department. “Both of the vehicles were Acuras.”
The raid went down around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20, in the 300 block of West 51st Street in LA after detectives saw several men in a backyard dismantling a 2001 Acura Integra.
When detectives approached the group, two of the men ran into the home and were found hiding inside.
One of the cars was stolen the night of the raid, police said, while a second victim had their vehicle stolen from the CSU Fullerton campus the night before, on June 19. Detectives found pieces of that Acura at the home.
The raid was led by members from the Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention (T.R.A.P.), which has busted at least two other so-called chop shops since May 2011.
Student Grace Han said she hadn’t heard about the cases before NBC4 News asked, but said it supports her feelings that it’s “scary to walk around at night as a woman.”
Other students said they weren’t surprised by the news.
"It makes sense, some of us spend the entire day on campus, night would be the best time," said Belen Salazar.
Four men were arrested in the raid: Richard Lopez, 22, of Stanton; Rashad Criss, 30, of LA; Joshua Gonzales, 29, of LA; and Bryan Agustin, 27, of Norwalk.
Investigators who specialize in preventing auto theft prevention said the suspects tried to cover their tracks.
"One of the vehicles was found inside an enclosed tarp, so it had a roof to the tarp and also had four sides," Valencia said.