SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- Typically when you think of a chop shop, you think of stolen cars. But Gwinnett County Policebroke up an unusual chop shop that was stealing and reselling boats and boat trailers.
Sugar Hill resident Dane Sweatman was charged with Operating a Chop Shop, six counts of Theft by Receiving, and 11 counts of altering Hull Identification Numbers (HIN). Police said Sweatman was operating the chop shop at his Sugar Hill home on Roosevelt Circle.
Two of the stolen boats, personal water crafts, were returned to victim Robert Lewis of Buford. "I'm glad he's off the street," Lewis said. Lewis's two Seadoos were on a trailer in his back yard when someone hitched up with his trailer and made off with the two water crafts.
It happened back in June while Lewis was sleeping. "It's unfortunate that society has to put up with thieves and people that don't want to try to do the right thing," he said.
Lewis said his two granddaughters used the water crafts on Lake Lanier. "I never thought I'd get them back," he said. "They usually go out of state and you never hear about them again."
Gwinnett County Police said Sweatman was the "fence" in the chop shop operation. "He's not actually stealing these water crafts, but he is taking them in and altering the Hull Identification Numbers and re-selling them," said Corporal Jake Smith.
Cpl. Smith said Sweatman apparently runs a legitimate repair service for water craft at his home in Sugar Hill but runs the chop shop on the side. After receiving a tip from Barrow County authorities Gwinnett Detectives got a search warrant for his home.
They found three trailers and three water craft that were stolen or had their HIN's altered. Investigators are trying to find out who stole the boats and trailers and sold them to Sweatman.
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