Saturday, April 21, 2018
Public safety

Hernando authorities charge two in chop shop operation

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County deputies who were called to recover a stolen truck at a mobile home west of Brooksville on Monday found a lot more than that.

Deputies arrived at 16166 Putnam St. and saw the stolen truck, a 2000 Ford F-350, parked in the front yard, according to a Sheriff's Office report. Also found on the property: a 2006 Ford F-350, a 1997 Honda Civic, a 15-foot cargo trailer and a 20-foot cargo trailer containing several pieces of lawn equipment.

Interior pieces of the 2000 Ford F-350, along with the truck's rear fenders and tailgate, were found in a nearby shed. A records check showed the vehicles and trailers had been stolen in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, the report states.

It was enough to charge Jeffrey William Ross, 39, with operating or aiding a chop shop, a third-degree felony, and three counts of grand theft. The arrest comes four months after Ross' release from state prison for a grand theft auto conviction, records show.

Ross told deputies that a friend of his brought the goods to the mobile home within the past week. Ross said he knew the property was stolen and that he helped dismantle the Ford truck, the report states. He said the friend gave methamphetamine to Ross' girlfriend, 33-year-old Jesica Ann Kortepeter, in exchange for storing the items there.

Kortepeter confirmed that she knew the vehicles and trailers were stolen and that the friend gave her methamphetamine in exchange for allowing him to keep the goods there, a report states. She said the friend also was going to pay her $100.

Ross gave deputies the name of the friend. A sheriff's spokeswoman said detectives were still investigating Tuesday. Ross was being held Tuesday in the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of $20,000. Kortepeter was charged with dealing in stolen property and remained in jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Ross has been arrested more than two dozen times in Florida in the past 13 years. He has served prison time for grand theft, burglary, dealing in stolen property, methamphetamine possession and criminal mischief, records show.

Kortepeter has prior convictions for worthless checks, marijuana and cocaine possession, petty theft and driving without a valid license.

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.

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