Counties Manukau police have busted an Auckland-wide "chop shop" believed to be trading stolen cars with false plates.
A mechanic's workshop was raided twice last month and so far a dozen stolen cars have been recovered, as well as engines and parts.
About 20 sets of false car "identities" were also recovered, which included registration plates, VIN tags and engine firewalls, which all carry identifying numbers. And police say up to 50 more cars are being investigated, with links to the Manurewa business.
It's alleged the mechanic was using his workplace as a chop shop - receiving stolen-to-order cars and "rebirthing" them with the spare plates. Police believe a small team of associates was stealing the cars for him.
Rebirthing means replacing a car's "identity" where legitimate registration plates and VIN numbers are taken from wrecked cars and added to a stolen car, thereby hiding its former identity and making it easier to sell.
Inspector Richard Wilkie said there has been an increase in stolen cars in South Auckland. About 80 per cent were being recovered but police wanted to find the rest, he said.
The stolen cars could be sold through Trade Me, classified advertisements and on the side of the road.
"As far as they're concerned, it's a legitimate car by the time they've finished with it. A lot of these cars are worth $3000-$5000, that's easy money," Mr Wilkie said.
The investigation began in April, when police found a stolen Mercedes Benz at the mechanic's business.
While dealing with the Mercedes another car was delivered to the address, which was also stolen.
The mechanic's workshop was searched on June 19 and again on June 30. Following the second search warrant, a Te Atatu home was also examined. Between the two properties police recovered 12 stolen vehicles, engines, parts, two stolen laptops and drug making utensils.
"It's likely we are going to recover multiple more vehicles. We're currently following up leads on that at the moment," officer in charge of the investigation Sergeant John Nicol said yesterday.
The cars were stolen Auckland-wide, he said.
As part of the investigation, Christopher Hewett, 43, and George Harrison, 41, appeared in court this week charged with receiving stolen cars and parts.
Some of the recovered property:
•2x Holden Commodore V8
•Holden V6 engine