MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An investigation into a string of lawnmower thefts across West Tennessee led state troopers to a chop shop in South Memphis.

Investigators discovered an active chop shop operation inside a seemingly abandoned warehouse on Nebraska Avenue. The Tennessee Highway Patrol says it was an organized crime operation.

Court records say this all started when John Deere lawnmowers were stolen from dealerships across several counties in West Tennessee.

According to documents, the Tennessee Highway Patrol placed GPS trackers on some bait mowers earlier this month. Just days later, troopers say GPS indicated one of the bait lawnmowers in Paris, Tennessee was moving.

Investigators followed the lawnmower as it was hauled in a truck to this warehouse. That’s when troopers saw people stashing mowers inside the building.

According to THP, one of the trucks they saw matched the description of a vehicle seen on video in other lawnmower thefts. 

Investigators reportedly conducted a traffic stop on the truck hauling the bait lawn mower and detained five people, including 34-year-old Brian Williams.

Williams is charged with four counts of theft of property, two charges for altering a motor vehicle serial number, and a charge for violation of chop shop law. He is held on a $15,000 bond.

Troopers executed a search warrant on the property and found various stolen lawnmowers, several dismantled vehicles, and car parts connected to stolen vehicles. Reports say many vehicles were stolen out of Memphis, and the truck that was used to steal the bait mower was reportedly stolen from Blytheville, Arkansas.

According to the Shelby County Register of Deeds, the property was sold to a buyer in California in November of last year for roughly $280,000. It’s unclear how long this operation has been going.

People who work in the area say due to heavy traffic and the location of the warehouse, they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

We reached out to Tennessee Highway Patrol for information about the investigation and if more arrests will be made. A spokesman for THP said they cannot release any more information due to this being an ongoing investigation.

As of Monday, the other people detained are not in custody.