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Authorities Warn Buyers about Purchasing Stolen Auto Parts

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MCALLEN – Investigators said people risk buying parts that may have been reported stolen when they buy online or from the streets.

People taking that route are taking business away from reputable sellers. And business is slow for used auto part shops across the Rio Grande Valley.

One business owner said they don’t know the exact reason for the slowdown but hearing about illegitimate sales makes them angry.

Hidalgo County investigators recently busted Hector Espino Garza for selling truck parts and fraud. He reportedly told authorities his car was stolen and sought out collecting insurance money.

He was later arrested and charged with falsely reporting his truck stolen, claiming insurance money and selling his own truck for parts.

“This is not the first time this has happened, we’ve had similar cases before,” Hidalgo County Chief Fraud Investigator Martin Cepeda explained.

Cepeda said the best way to ensure people aren’t buying stolen parts is to avoid purchasing on Craigslist or the pulgas.

Businesses like La Quinta Used Auto Parts are more credible. The business owner, Joel Prado, said he’s careful and doesn’t want stolen parts to end up on his property.

“Somebody wanted to trade an engine or motor, and he bought it on Craigslist. I told him I can’t do that because I don’t know where that engine or motor came from. We only sell what we have here, we don’t exchange parts for anybody,” he said.

All the products Prado sells were purchased at auctions. Most of the vehicles were totaled by insurance companies.

Prado buys online and has a driver pick the cars up from the different auctions, then dismantles them on site.

He said his business isn’t doing too well at the moment.

“It’s been slow for the last four months, in the last 15 years, this last four months have been the slowest,” Prado said.

He said it’s slow for other local used auto parts shops. He can’t say why but cases like Espino’s make him frustrated.

“Yeah, because they take away our business. If somebody does that, another person is likely doing the same thing and that’s going to take our business away,” he said.

Prado is optimistic business will pick back up after the holidays are over.

People can double check a part or vehicle purchase by taking the VIN number to a local police department or to the DMV. If they’re buying from a business, they can ask where the parts came from and if the business checks the VIN numbers.

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