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Former chop shop owner arrested

Man charged with perjury after allegedly failing to state past conviction while applying for license

Posted: March 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

A man whose business was raided in 2009 for operating as a chop shop has been charged for allegedly lying to the state about his criminal history, authorities said Friday.

Nellson Vels, 52, submitted an Automotive Repair Dealer Registration Form in October to become properly licensed to run Billet Works Performance at 26858 Ruether Ave. after an investigator found the shop was unlicensed, said Glenn Mason, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs. 

Vels was arrested Wednesday and has been charged with suspicion of perjury, a felony, for failing to disclose that he had pleaded no contest in 2009 to unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle.

The sentence came after a three-year investigation, led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention, revealed Vels’ auto shop had been operating as a chop shop, according to previous reports.

“He filled out the form, and he didn’t mention that he had been arrested and charged and sentenced to three years formal probation,” Mason said. “At the bottom of (the form), it says you declare under risk of perjury that you believe information (in the form) is correct.”

Vels, meanwhile, said Friday that he didn’t intend to fill out the registration form incorrectly, and that law enforcement officials have been harassing him.

“I checked one wrong box (on the registration form),” Vels said. “The form asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime, I have never been convicted of a crime. I pled no contest. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never had a complaint from a customer.”

His attorney Harland Braun said law enforcement officials have a “vendetta” against his client and expected the case against Vels wouldn’t hold up in court.

“He filled out the form without thinking,” Braun said. “For that, they come out and arrest him? It’s unbelievable.”
Braun is a well-known criminal defense attorney and has represented actor Steven Seagal, rapper Eazy-E and basketball player Dennis Rodman.

Vels’ arrest is the latest chapter related to a lengthy investigation of the once popular Canyon Country auto shop.
In June 2009, Robert Primm, a longtime customer of the shop, reported his 1956 Chevy Bel Air Convertible was stolen while he was eating at a Valencia restaurant with Vels, according to past reports.

Shortly after the car was reported stolen, authorities found the convertible broken down into parts in a container in the automotive shop.

About a week later, authorities raided the car shop and arrested four men, including Vels.

Since the raid, Vels said he sold his stake in Billet Works Performance.

He said he is now working at Outlaw Garage, which has the same listed address and phone number as Billet Works Performance.

He claims he agreed to plead no contest to the criminal charge stemming from the investigation into his business, because the district attorney had threatened to indict his family.

“I took that plea deal because the (district attorney) said, ‘If you don’t take the deal, we’ll indict your wife,’” Vels said.
“What would you do?”


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