DELAND, Florida — Investigators raided an auto and scrap metal salvage yard in DeLand Wednesday morning and arrested the owner and manager on charges that they systematically bought and sold stolen property and covered up the transactions with deliberately inaccurate sales forms. Led by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, teams of agents searched the business — Central Florida Pull ‘n Save — as well as the owner’s home and seized records connected to the ongoing investigation.
The owner, 45-year-old Sebastiano Gennaro, was taken into custody on a warrant charging him with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and organized scheme to defraud. The business’ manager, 30-year-old Elbert Tang, was arrested on charges of dealing in stolen property and organized scheme to defraud.
Dubbed “Operation Junk in the Trunk,” the investigation involved a close look at numerous transactions at Gennaro’s recycling center located at 906 S. Garfield Ave. Sheriff’s investigators zeroed in on the business after stolen property from more than a dozen burglaries turned up there. And in each case, officers were allegedly stymied in their investigation because the business failed to comply with state record-keeping requirements. Police say the mandatory transaction forms were routinely incorrect and incomplete, in many cases failing to include the seller’s name, address, phone number, fingerprint and physical description.
Investigators compiled a packet of information explaining all of the reporting requirements and provided a copy to Central Florida Pull ‘n Save and other salvage yards in the area. But the problems with the transaction records at Central Florida Pull ‘n Save persisted, leading investigators to conclude that the forms were being deliberately filled out wrong to hide the stolen property and make it impossible for law enforcement to identify the sellers. And their suspicions were confirmed by a former worker who told investigators that employees were instructed to take in property that they knew was most likely stolen and then deliberately fill out the transaction forms inaccurately. The ex-worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said that employees who failed to follow the instructions were fired.
In one case investigators looked into, a tractor, household appliances and other property was taken in a burglary of a vacant home near DeLand last June. The tractor was later recovered at Central Florida Pull ‘n Save, where the burglary suspect had sold it for $470 — substantially below its estimated market value.
According to investigators, that the seller accepted well below the tractor’s market value should have been a tip-off that it was stolen. Another case involved the theft of approximately 10,000 pounds of copper from a Sanford business. The distinctive copper is used on airplanes and was in mint condition.
Over a two-day period, the same person came into Central Florida Pull ‘n Save a total of 16 times to sell the stolen copper. The business never reported the suspicious transactions to law enforcement and instead paid the woman a total of $26,235 for the copper — but not before cheating her on the weight and also paying her as if it was a lower and therefore less valuable grade of copper. The business then drove the copper to another county and re-sold it to another salvage yard at its higher grade, turning an approximately $7,000 profit.
Sheriff’s investigators presented their findings to a judge, who issued arrest warrants for Gennaro and Tang and search warrants for the business as well as Gennaro’s home at 107 Enclave Avenue in DeLand. Executing the four warrants on Wednesday morning resulted in a massive operation that included agents from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the DeLand Police Department, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Gennaro was arrested at the business, while Tang was picked up at his residence in DeLand. Both will be transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach. Gennaro’s bond has been set at $210,000. Tang’s bond is $100,000.