Engineless car leads police to chop shop

A Modesto police officer's discovery of two men with a stolen compact car that had no engine led investigators Friday to make three arrests and uncover a chop shop, police said.

Police and Stanislaus County Auto Theft Taskforce investigators arrested three Modesto men and seized numerous vehicle parts and six vehicles.

Jeffrey Ross Jefford Jr., 24, and Vutthi Vonn, 20, were arrested on suspicion of operating a chop shop and possession of stolen property, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a Modesto police spokesman. Jefford also was charged with evading police.

Michael Sedra, 20, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a vehicle with a removed identification number and violating probation.

The investigation started about 3:30 a.m. when officer Monty Ownbey spotted a vehicle pushing a Honda Civic near East Rumble Road and Keller Street.

Ownbey pulled alongside and saw the Honda was stripped and did not have an engine, said Lt. Jolene Gonzales.

The man sitting in the driver's seat of the engineless Honda immediately got out of the car and ran, police said. The vehicle pushing the Honda sped off.

Police discovered the Honda was stolen in Modesto.

Officers surrounded the area and began searching for the man who ran away. Gundlach said officer Frank Inacio and his dog Fritz found Jefford hiding in the back yard of a home at 3005 Keller St., where he was taken into custody without further incident.

The investigation by police and StanCATT led them to 213 Eula Ave. in southeast Modesto. At the home, investigators found Sedra and a motorcycle that had the vehicle identification number removed. Police had not yet determined whether the motorcycle was stolen, Gundlach said.

Further investigation led police to an apartment at 3001 Jade Way in north Modesto, where officers found Vonn. Gundlach said officers discovered four suspected stolen vehicles and parts from the stolen Honda inside Vonn's garage.

Police had not yet determined if the four other vehicles were stolen, Gundlach said.

Investigators don't think either Vonn or Sedra was the person driving the car that sped away from Ownbey earlier in the day, Gundlach said.

Modesto police ask anyone with information about these crimes to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.