2 Coventry men charged with running illegal chop shop

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Two Coventry men are accused of running an illegal chop shop, which investigators reportedly discovered as a result of a separate narcotics investigation in 2022.

Court documents obtained by Target 12 state that Providence police conducted a “large-scale narcotics investigation involving multiple Rhode Island jurisdictions” in 2022 and 2023.

During this investigation, R.I. State Police detectives learned a commercial building in Woonsocket, “fitted for automotive mechanic work” was a location frequently visited by two suspects related to the narcotics investigation.

In July 2023, police arrested Rudy Sepulveda Tavarez in Coventry when he was found in possession of narcotics, as a result of Providence’s investigation. Investigators never applied for a search warrant for the Woonsocket building.

“All activity at the location ceased at the building, to include lease payments,” an affidavit stated.

Police said the owner of the building went inside to inspect it last month for a new lessee and found “numerous items indicative of motor vehicle theft and illegal chop shop activity.”

“These items included automotive lifts, newer-looking motor vehicle engines cut from vehicles, tire and wheel removal machinery, welders, gauge clusters, transmissions, vehicle frames and assorted vehicle body parts,” the affidavit said.

The owner told police about his findings and told officers that no other tenants had entered the building since the July arrest.

“These items are indicative of an illegal chop shop, specifically, one that works in stolen motor vehicle parts,” the affidavit said. “Drug trafficking organizations will commonly engage in motor theft and illegal chop shop activity in order to broaden their illegal income sources.”

State police executed a search warrant at the Woonsocket building on March 14. No one was inside, but investigators found “three motor vehicle hydraulic lifts and numerous tools and equipment utilized to dismantle motor vehicles.”

Paperwork found inside the building listed Tomas and Rudy Sepulveda Tavarez as the owners. A check of the business through the R.I. Secretary of State Corporate Database showed the building was registered to Tomas Sepulveda, according to police.

“Numerous vehicle transmissions, engines, front suspensions, vehicle seats, headliners, sunroofs and other miscellaneous interior and exterior parts of motor vehicles were discovered throughout the building,” the affidavit said.

Police said two motor vehicle engines, belonging to a 2018 Toyota Camry and a 2018 Jeep Cherokee, were confirmed stolen from Providence and Johnston, respectively.

Investigators said inmate records showed both Tomas and Rudy Sepulveda Tavarez were behind bars at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston from April 2, 2022, through April 4, 2022, and Rudy Sepulveda got locked up again in July 2023, where police said he had remained at the writing of their affidavit.

“Therefore, Tomas and Rudy Sepulveda (Tavarez) were not incarcerated during the motor vehicle thefts and subsequent dismantling of the stolen vehicles,” police concluded.

On Tuesday, members of the Auto Theft Unit arrested Tomas Sepulveda Tavarez. He’s facing charges for operating a chop shop, being in possession of stolen motor vehicle parts, and conspiracy. He was arraigned by a Justice of the Peace and released on $10,000 personal recognizance, pending a future court date.

Police also filed the same charges against Rudy Sepulveda Tavarez on Thursday. Online court records show he entered no plea, and a $10,000 bond was set but not posted.

Alexandra Leslie ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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