Repeat offender accused of leading alleged N. Harris Co. chop shop with $400K in vehicles stolen

Saturday, January 27, 2024
Dad, son among 9 accused of taking $400K in cars for alleged chop shop
A Texas Ranger's truck was taken, leading Katy police to an alleged chop shop and $400,000 in reportedly stolen vehicles.

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- Police busted an apparent chop shop in north Harris County and arrested nine people allegedly responsible for stealing more than $400,000 worth of cars.

The people charged in connection to the auto theft ring are Jose Alberto Vasquez, 21; Efrain Felipe Rivas, 21; Mario Cesar Caraza, 28; Lorenzo Nathan Hernandez, 21; Rene Castro, 38; Alejandro Lumbreras, 22; Jorge Alberto Sanchez, 22; Nathan Castro, 22; and Jeyson Gonzalez, 23.

Sources close to the investigation told ABC13 that a Texas Ranger had his personal truck stolen in Katy. So, the Katy Police Department got involved, and their investigation led them to the alleged chop shop located at 911 Hodgkins St.

Surveillance footage shows Katy police and undercover investigators surrounding the shop at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

According to records, Rene Castro, the ringleader and organizer, has a lengthy criminal history and has been out on bond since 2021, accused of doing the same thing. His new charges will be his sixth bond violation, records add.

He told investigators his 22-year-old son and the other suspects were responsible for "hitting licks," stealing the cars, and then bringing them to the chop shop before re-selling them or their parts.

The auto theft ring targeted vehicles all over. While homicides and violent crimes in Houston continue to trend slightly down, auto thefts are significantly up.

According to the ABC13 Neighborhood Safety Tracker, auto thefts are up 13% compared to last year, and in the previous 12 months, the city averaged 392 stolen cars a week.

ABC13 contacted Katy police for more on the investigation, including whether they would have used the same resources and got involved if it was just a civilian's truck stolen rather than a Texas Ranger.

Katy police did not want to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

For updates on this story, follow Brooke Taylor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

SEE ALSO: Nearly $500K in high-end vehicles found when Harris Co. investigators moved in on alleged chop shop

Authorities charged Landon Wayne Swonke with aggregate theft in connection to an alleged chop shop ring inside Stampede Diesel auto shop.