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Today, the city assembled inspectors, police officers, and reporters for “Operation Pitbull,” a crackdown on shady operations along Bladensburg Road NE. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs wanted to catch used-car dealers who were screwing their customers. What happened was less spectacular.
At one used-car lot, inspectors learned that a federal task force had arrived on a previous day and seized a number of autos. Most of the cars on the premises didn’t have license plates, and some were stored illegally in the public alley. “This ain’t no chop shop up in here,” said employee Jerry Robertson. “It’s legit. Everything’s straight.” After inspectors wrote infractions and asked pointed questions, Operation Pitbull moved on.
At a second dealership, auto-unit officers examined a Frankenstein job in which the back end of one car was being welded to the front end of another. All the officials in the garage agreed that this salvage was illegal. But the owner wasn’t around, and the mechanics sat in the shade, pleading ignorance. This shop stayed open, too.
DCRA did close one business that day: an AAMCO Transmissions outlet, a clean-looking garage that happened to be storing a D.C. government truck and two Water and Sewer Authority vehicles. The AAMCO’s owner, Eung Chung, didn’t have a certificate of occupancy that allowed him to store cars or perform some of his other services. He said he didn’t know that he was doing anything wrong. At least one official believed him.
“They’re gonna shut him down,” DCRA spokeswoman Karen-Siobhan Robinson Karyn-Siobhan Robinson told reporters.
“Oh, cool!” said one TV photographer. “What does that mean? They’re gonna lock the gate and walk him out in handcuffs?”
Chung drove off to apply for a new certificate of occupancy. The garage doors came down, and an employee grinned as he closed the gates.
CORRECTION, 5/24: The original post misspelled DCRA spokesperson Karyn-Siobhan Robinson’s name.