‘Obliterated’ Vehicle ID Number gets Columbus man charged under ‘chop shop’ law

Local News
Joshua Wright

Riding a motorcycle on Hamilton Road Wednesday afternoon without a tag turned out to be the least of the problems for a Columbus man who was arrested and charged under a little-used section of the Georgia code.

Joshua Craig Wright, 35, was arrested about 3 p.m. by Special Operations Officer Mack Hollenbeck. The officer noticed the dirt bike Wright was driving did not have a license plate, according to Recorder’s Court testimony Thursday morning.

Wright initially gave Hollenbeck a false name, the officer told the court.

Wright was placed under arrest when officers noticed that the dirt bike’s Vehicle Identification Number “was obliterated,” Hollenbeck told the court.

The officer could have charged Wright with altering an identification number, which is a misdemeanor. Instead, Wright was charged with a felony under the Georgia Code’s “Chop Shop” law. 

It states: “Any person who knowingly alters, counterfeits, defaces, destroys, disguises, falsifies, forges, obliterates, or removes a vehicle identification number with the intent to misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than 10 years, by a fine of not more than $50,000.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

The term “chop shop” usually means “a building, lot, facility, or other structure or premise at which at least one person engages in receiving, concealing, destroying, disassembling, dismantling, reassembling, or storing a passenger motor vehicle or passenger motor vehicle part that has been unlawfully obtained,” according to USLegal.com.

Judge Julius Hunter set Wright’s bond at more than $8,000. The bonds were set at $2,500 on the “Chop Shop” charge, $5,000 bond on a methamphetamine charge, $600 for no insurance, $600 on driving with a suspended license, $250 on possession of drug-related objects, $250 for providing false name and date of birth, and $100 for no state tag.

Wright pleaded not guilty to all charges and the case was bound over to Superior Court. 

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