Man pleads to charges in chop shop case

SALEM – A Salem-area man who was reportedly running a chop shop faces prison time after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property.

Robert L. Martin, 46, of 8688 Salem-Unity Road and owner of Yukon Construction in Salem, was charged with four counts of receiving stolen property following an investigation by several area law enforcement agencies including the Salem police last September.

Receiving stolen property is a third-degree felony when the value of the property is in excess of $150,000. Martin faces one to five years in prison for each count when he is sentenced in Mahoning County court. He could also be fined of up to $10,000 on each count.

The investigation originated with the Cortland Police Department after what appeared to be a civil suit regarding a complaint for abandoned equipment on a job site.

A check of vehicle numbers determined the equipment was stolen from different locations in Northeast Ohio, authorities said.

That led to the highway patrol, Goshen Township and Salem police investigations along with investigation by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Search warrants were executed on Martin’s property on Salem-Valley Road and on state Route 14 near state Route 165, both in Goshen Township, that resulted in the recovery of stolen construction equipment valued at nearly $500,000.

Evidence showed the property along state Route 14 was operating as a commercial chop shop where stolen semi-trailers and their loads were being cut up for scrap.

An estimated $1.5 million in additional stolen construction equipment and commercial tractor trailers was recovered.

Salem police recovered a front-end loader valued at $50,000 that Martin had allegedly stolen in Akron and sold to a local business.

The case was going to be sent to the Columbiana County grand jury, but officials determined because of the multi-jurisdictions that Mahoning County was the best place, Salem Detective Dave Talbert said.

One out-of-town business provided security video showing Martin pulling into its parking lot multiple times and stealing trailers in broad daylight.

At the time of his arrest, bond was set at $100,000 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court before it was transferred to Mahoning County where it was amended to personal recognizance on Feb. 11.

On March 20, Martin pleaded guilty to four counts of receiving stolen property with a forfeiture specification and his bond was continued.

Talbert said Martin had a clean record before his arrest.