A convicted felon pleaded guilty Friday to operating a chop shop in Thermal and was immediately sentenced to three years probation and a stint on work release.

Malcolm Morreo, 38, of Thermal was arrested in May 2019 after a sheriff’s deputy on patrol spotted a stolen vehicle on his property, and subsequently discovered the illegal operation that typically involves stolen vehicles being stripped down in order to sell the parts.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, two felony counts of purchasing or receiving a stolen vehicle were dismissed in exchange for Morreo admitting to the chop shop felony.

Including time served, Morreo — who was on probation at the time of his arrest — must spend approximately six months in a work release program, according to John Hall, the public information officer for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Morreo was one of three people charged in connection to the illegal operation discovered at 66950 Martinez Road on May 9, 2019, where two stolen vehicles were located, according to authorities.

Rosario Durinzi, 34, pleaded guilty to one count each of operating a chop shop and purchasing or receiving a stolen vehicle, both felonies, along with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and presenting false identification to a peace officer.

As part of her plea with prosecutors, Durinzi was sentenced to three years probation and must complete mental health treatment.

An arrest warrant remains active for Jesus Rocha, 32, after he skipped a court date last month. He is charged one count of operating a chop shop and two counts of purchasing or receiving a stolen vehicle, along with a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge.

Rocha is on parole, according to court papers.

A declaration in support of an arrest warrant prepared by Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Jose L. Guerrero said that a sheriff’s deputy patrolling the area discovered a parked vehicle without license plates on the property, which turned out to be stolen.

The sheriff’s deputy also had “prior knowledge of the residence being a location where stolen vehicles were `chopped’ after being stolen,” according to the declaration.

Upon searching the property, the deputy reported finding another stolen vehicle, and other stripped-down vehicles, along with other evidence the location was being used as a chop shop.

Morreo has a prior felony conviction in Riverside County for purchasing or receiving a stolen vehicle.

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