GASTON, SC — A Columbia man has been charged with operating a chop shop in Gaston, according to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.
Vernon Edward Gardner, 45, is charged with operating a chop shop and four counts of possessing a stolen motor vehicle, Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said. Operating a chop shop is a felony under state law and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Gardner was arrested after police found four partially dismantled Chevrolet sports cars while executing a search warrant at his 252 N. Main St. shop in Gaston on Feb. 13. The cars were reported stolen from North Carolina dealerships and were together valued at $320,000, Metts said.
Deputies started investigating the chop shop after Lexington County Fire Services crews found Gardner burning car parts in a pit outside the business Feb. 12.
There were piles of car parts around the pit when deputies arrived, Metts said. Among the parts were two car doors with vehicle identification numbers scratched off.
A search warrant was executed at the shop after the discovery. There, investigators found a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro and a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette in work bays. Parts belonging to another Corvette and Camaro were found scattered throughout the property.
Gardner is being held at Lexington County Detention Center on bond totaling $375,000. As the investigation continues, additional charges could be filed against Gardner, Metts said.