Police: Possibly 300 cars stolen in chop shop operation

HUNTING PARK - December 13, 2011

Authorities are now working to get the cars and the property that was inside of them back to the owners, some of whom are recent victims.

Dante Alexander's wife Melissa had her 1996 Honda Accord stolen last Monday from right outside their home.

"We just got a call saying they recovered some stuff, so we're about to see if we're one of the lucky ones who recoup some of our stuff," Dante said.

Melissa's car was recovered Friday, but the catalytic converter was gone, as well as other items including Christmas gifts.

By Tuesday evening, however, the family had the Honda Accord once again parked in front of their house. Police also recovered most of the Christmas presents the couple had bought for their kids, which apparently weren't too hard to find. The Alexander's say the crooks had taken the toys and placed them under their own Christmas tree.

"It's sad to know that they actually had stuff that I paid for out of my hard earned money under their Christmas tree for their kids. I feel bad for the kids, but at the same time, he didn't think about mine," Melissa said.

The Commanding Officer of Major Crimes announced in Hunting Park earlier in the day that Alexander Ramos and his brother Eduardo Ramos have been charged with 71 counts of auto theft, among other charges.

Many of the 83 vehicles police recovered were older model 1996-1997 Hondas, mostly Accords. Why would thieves be interested in old Hondas?

"Mainly the target of vehicle was the catalytic converter. They have platinum in them and they are worth quite a bit of money on the street," Captain Leonard Ditchkofsky said. Police say newer Honda models do not contain the platinum.

This investigation began in August with a traffic stop.

Police say the cars mostly were stolen from parking lots or streets in various sections of the city including the Northeast, the Northwest, Center City, and South Philadelphia.

The brothers allegedly operated out of the garages of their homes.

"Their normal method of operation is they will steal the car, take it to one of their two houses, get it in the garage; they saw off the catalytic converter, start the car, remove the battery, and dump the car. Most of them were dumped in the lower northeast section of the city," Captain Ditchkofsky said.

Police say there could be other suspects out there.

The investigation continues.

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