A Columbus man was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to 12 months and one day in prison for his role in a conspiracy to steal at least 35 vehicles to dismantle and sell their parts, causing more than $300,000 in loss.
 
Mike Silva, 31, pleaded guilty in October 2020 to one count of conspiring to operate a chop shop and violate the Clean Air Act. Silva operated an auto body shop that served as the chop shop where stolen vehicles were dismantled.
 
As part of his sentence, Silva is ordered to pay approximately $301,000 in restitution.
 
Conspiracy leader James A. Imes, 51, of Columbus, was sentenced in July 2019 to 120 months in prison. His wife, Tina Imes, 41, was sentenced in September 2020 to 36 months in prison. The couple was ordered to pay approximately $550,000 in restitution. Co-defendant Scottie Johnson was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay approximately $263,000 in restitution.
 
According to court documents, from January 2013 until April 2014, defendants stole at least 35 vehicles to dismantle them and sell their parts throughout the Midwest, earning $10,000 to $15,000 per week. Co-conspirators operated chop shops in three locations on the west side of Columbus to traffic the car parts.
 
Most of the vehicles were sold as parts or scrap to salvage yards. More valuable parts were sold on Craigslist through posts advertised in cities across Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia.
 
During the destruction of the vehicles, HCFC refrigerant chemicals were released into the atmosphere when vehicle air conditioning tubes were cut.
 
Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Laurie A. Stevenson; and Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack announced the sentence handed down by Senior U.S. District Judge James L. Graham. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan J.C. Grey and Special Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Marous, Christopher N. St.Pierre and Heather Robinson are representing the United States in this case. 
 
The case was investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Ohio EPA Special Investigations Unit, as well as the assistance from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus Division of Police Auto Theft Unit and Ohio State Highway Patrol Theft and Fraud Unit.