Pair of stolen Alachua County school buses recovered

Published: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.

Two school buses stolen from a lot in Hawthorne in September were found in Flagler County over the weekend.

One of the two 78-passenger yellow buses was returned, and the other will be picked up in the next couple of days, Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said.

The school district's name was sanded off the side of the returned bus, and its vehicle identification number had been changed. Other than that, Johnson said, the buses were in good shape.

The buses seem to have been part of a multi-state school bus theft ring, reportedly busted by Jacksonville authorities during the Florida-Georgia football game a few weeks ago.

Police said buses were stolen from several school districts in Florida and Georgia, and were then rented out as shuttles during the Florida-Georgia game and to private schools by the 95 Tours and Transportation company.

Three school buses stolen from other parts of Florida turned up in Gainesville earlier this month.

Police arrested the owner of 95 Tours and Transportation on charges of stolen motor vehicles and altered or removed tags, according to the Florida Times-Union. Johnson said the Hawthorne bus thief cut the chains on the gate of the compound lot in September, then hotwired two of the buses.

One was a 2007 model and one was a 2008. Johnson said they cost $100,000 each when new, but the district would've been reimbursed for less than that if they weren't recovered.

The school district has since installed cameras in all five of its bus compounds.

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