FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Sheriff's Office said a year-long investigation and prosecution of a local automobile salvage yard will encourage similar operations across the state to comply with codes and reporting requirements used to identify illegal operations.

CBH Trucking and Salvage, 5615 U.S. Highway 64, was illegally purchasing vehicles and converting them to scrap for "decades," Detective Mike Sindelar, of the sheriff's office Rural Crimes Unit, said Monday.

The sheriff's office started investigating owners Carl and Bobby Huish in early last year and charged each of the business owners with hundreds of misdemeanor crimes, according to court documents.

Carl Huish, 75, pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors in February and is scheduled to be sentenced this summer. He is not expected to receive any jail time, Sindelar said. Bobby Huish's criminal charges were dismissed.

The sheriff's office started investigating CBH when the business converted a stolen vehicle to scrap, Sindelar said.

Sindelar said the case was unique because it involved local, state and national entities that worked together to crack down on the unlicensed business.

In addition to the misdemeanor charges, the Department of Justice's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System program in Washington, D.C., found the business purchased and destroyed 533 vehicles since 2009 without a license to do so, Sindelar said.

The Department of Justice fined the business nearly $60,000 because of those violations, Sindelar said.

"We hope that similar cooperation in other jurisdictions will result in greater compliance with mandated reporting," he said. "The licensed dealers are being hurt by the unlicensed ones."

The purpose of licensing auto salvage businesses is to ensure stolen vehicles or vehicles used to commit a crime are not destroyed, Sindelar said.

New Mexico automobile salvage companies are required to have dismantler licenses issued by the state, said Jason Overturf, a manager of A-1 Auto Salvage in Kirtland.

Overturf said A-1 is a licensed dismantler. To get the license, the business has to comply with environmental and insurance regulations and they also have to be in compliance with county government ordinances.

A crackdown on unlicensed auto salvage yards would be welcomed, he said.

"Salvage that should be coming to us to recycle it legitimately isn't," he said. "We're losing money by doing it the right way."

Carl and Bobby Huish could not be reached for comment Monday.

A sign on their business, which is surrounded by barbed wire, advertises for Huish Sporting Goods and CBH Trucking and Salvage. Signs outside the business also advertise that it sells fireworks year round and buys scrap metal.

"The business has assured us they are not doing any more of these transactions until they are licensed," Sindelar said. "They are in the process of becoming legally able to do so."

Ryan Boetel can be reached at rboetel@daily-times.com; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/rboetel.