2 Investigates: Cars allegedly stolen, stripped, tossed into Bay in chop shop operation

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - Crews spent the day Thursday in the waters off Point Richmond just north of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.

Authorities say that's where they think thieves in a chop shop ring dumped the remainders of stolen cars and boats.

"This is definitely the most bizarre thing I've done so far," said PO3 David Myers with the US Coast Guard.

"We believe there's chopped up cars in the Bay," said Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Bill Murphy.

Murphy says the first clue came after two defendants attempted to steal a boat. The victim described the getaway vehicle. Richmond police officers say they found it at a homeless encampment with a lot more evidence including more chopped up cars, boats and watercraft.

The Contra Costa County Deputy DA says the defendants consider themselves pirates.

After making arrests and recovering 21 vehicles, the DA's office received a tip there were more chopped up vehicles in the Bay.

Investigators believe the defendants used a moving barge to dump the remaining vehicle parts.

"It's very stupid. You have these valuable cars 5, 10, 14,000 bucks and they're being chopped up and destroyed for a couple of hundred bucks of easy cash," said Murphy.

It was not easy to look for the cars. Divers had a hard time seeing underneath the murky water. They used Sonar to help.

"It's hard for us to look at this and say definitely it's a vehicle," said Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol Deputy Joe England.

Divers did not recover any vehicles Thursday. Investigators say one option is to bring one of the defendants out to the Bay and have him tell investigators exactly where the vehicles are.

There are currently four defendants, and three are in custody. An arrest warrant is out for a fourth.

2 Investigates looked into the defendants' criminal history and all had past vehicle thefts.

KTVU reached out to defendants' attorneys. One got back to us saying he had no comment.