JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The owner of a Jacksonville tour operator is charged with stealing at least eight school buses from northeast Florida and southeast Georgia school districts and using them in his business -- including shuttling Florida-Georgia fans over the weekend.
At least two of the yellow school buses missing from Lowndes County, Ga. in October were found parked near EverBank Field on Saturday night. The drivers, who told police they were working for 95 South Tours and Transportation, where there to shuttle football fans to the game.
"Our detectives are still working this case, it's very active. We don't know how big it's going to get," said Jacksonville Public Information Officer, Melissa Bujeda.
Another bus was stolen from First Student in Jacksonville in 2009, and three reported stolen from Kingsland, Ga., last year, were recovered at Rock's business.
"At that time, we found four additional buses that had been reported stolen," said Bujeda. "Three we were able to confirm and one had an altered VIN on the bus, and later on we were able to determine two of those buses were stolen out of Kingsland, Georgia and one of those buses was out of Jacksonville."
On Monday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested 44-year-old Alphonso Rock (pictured in Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo) at the Lane Avenue headquarters of the transportation company.
"Buses cost a lot of money and these individuals were running a business was operated with no overhead," said Bujeda.
Flagler County deputies say two school buses stolen from their county in August recovered in Gainesville were also traced to 95 South Tours.
"It appears these buses were stolen as part of an elaborate theft ring operating in Northeast Florida and South Georgia," said Flagler County Sheriff James Manfre.
Surveillance video from a bus robbery in Kingsland in 2012 captured someone driving off in a bus from a Kingsland lot. Two additional buses that were stolen from Flagler County have also been recovered in Gainesville.
"We all drive down the road and see school buses, and we all think they're taking kids to school and transporting people," said Bujeda. "No one ever thinks they may steal this and use for that exact same thing, transport people, so he thought obviously, he was going to get away from it."
Police said Rock was unable to provide documentation of his ownership of any of the buses, except for one that where the VIN had been replaced. The title for that bus was issued to Rock prior to the date of that vehicle's theft, according to the report.
A statewide investigation is underway in school bus thefts throughout Florida to see if more stolen vehicles can be traced to Rock.
Channel 4 went to 95 South Tour and Transportation, but employees at the business did not comment when Channel 4's Adrienne Moore asked if they knew about Rock's arrest or the stolen buses.
"The officers were made aware that there were buses that had been stolen. It just happened to be that two of those buses happened to be in the Jacksonville area during the Florida-Georgia game," said Bujeda.
Investigators are still working on the case. They believe there could be more people involved in the stolen buses.
Rock was booked into the Duval County jail on charges of theft of a motor vehicle less than $100,000.
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