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SUV in Times Square plot linked to Conn. junkyard

The scene outside Kramer's auto body shop in

The scene outside Kramer's auto body shop in Stratford, Conn., where license plates were removed from a vehicle and found on a Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged with explosives and left in Times Square Saturday evening. (May 3, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

STRATFORD, Conn. - Somewhere on the road to Times Square, the plot to explode a car bomb in the crossroads of the world passed through Kramer's Used Auto Parts, a weedy junkyard in an industrial zone of this suburb of Bridgeport.

"Things like that can happen in this world," said mechanic Rich King, squatted down next to a beat-up Toyota Camry. He discussed the license plate reportedly stolen from a Ford truck on the lot that turned up on the Nissan Pathfinder set to explode in Times Square on Saturday night.

Ringed by a chain-link fence, the lot has dozens of cars in various states of disrepair, a wandering black cat and piles of engine blocks. Only a few of the cars on the lot appeared to have any plates to steal.

Still, says King, "It can happen to anyone's car. It was a coincidence."

Since the discovery of the bomb, a lot of signs have pointed toward this section of Connecticut, about an hour north and east of New York City.

A sticker on the Nissan's fender directed investigators to Thomas Anthony Auto Sales, a used-car dealer in Bridgeport. By 6:45 a.m. Sunday, owner Thomas Manis said, he had agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force on his doorstep in Monroe, asking for records of the car.

The VIN number had been changed, so it took some time. He eventually turned over records on a Pathfinder that he sold in 2004, but the buyer was quickly eliminated as a suspect.

"It was sold two or three more times after that," Manis said.

Then, there's the license plate. Owner Wayne LeBlanc, who declined to comment Monday, has said it was stolen off a truck in for repair. Friends said he should be taken at his word.

His longtime barber, Florina Florescu, said LeBlanc has long complained about thefts at the junkyard. "He's a very nice guy with a lot of grandchildren," she said Monday during a visit to the junkyard. "I'm sure he couldn't be involved."

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