8 school buses stolen and scrapped, 4 in custody - FOX 35 News Orlando

8 school buses stolen and scrapped, 4 in custody

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

At least four people are in custody Friday night in connection with the theft of eight school buses overnight from a Far South Side bus yard after the vehicles were found shredded at a West Side scrap yard.

This was far from an ordinary scrap metal thievery according to police and the bus company owner says this was an operation that took hours and was clearly planned.

But what the suspects didn't take into account was the technology which would lead to their arrest.

What was left of the buses was discovered in a heap in the back of the lot at the Gonzalez Auto Parts facility at 34th and Lawndale.

They belonged to the Sunrise Bus Company and the owner said the full size buses were all equipped with GPS which allowed police to track the thieves there.

Three people have been taken into custody for questioning. The fire department brought in ladders and other equipment to help locate a man hiding in the office.

Police would later arrest the owner of Gonzalez Auto Parts, who had hid for hours in the rafters. He was taken away in what appeared to be an undercover van.

A police source said detectives had been to this business before and an office manager at a nearby business had long wondered what went on there - having seen people coming and going at odd hours.

"If they can move so many large school buses without being detected until they were here and chopped up, what else was going on," said Jessica Rongue, office manager of M.W. Powell.

Employees discovered the missing buses when they arrived for work at the Sunrise Bus Lot at 110th and Torrence around 5 a.m. The lock on the gate had been cut.

Police said the theft started around 9 p.m. Thursday.

Owner Greg Bonnet says he believes the buses were stolen for parts, not the scrap metal value they held. He estimated a used diesel engine alone could be worth $11,000 to $12,000.

When he arrived at the scrap yard he said all the engines, transmissions and other parts were gone. All that was left were some orange sheets of metal.

A Chicago Public Schools representative did not immediately know if any of the buses serviced CPS.

Police remain on the scene Friday night guarding the facility. Detectives will return Saturday and the investigation could take days.

Police reportedly checked out another West Side facility tied to the owner. They found the truck that hauled away the bus parts to a recycling plant but it's not clear what was recovered there. No charges have been filed yet.

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