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School Buses Stolen Overnight, Shredded In Scrap Yard

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Police were on the scene at SRV Metal Scrapper on the South Side. (CBS)

Police were on the scene at SRV Metal Scrapper on the South Side. (CBS)

Updated 03/08/13 – 6 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Eight school buses stolen from a South Side lot overnight were driven to a salvage yard, where some of them were shredded into scrap, police said. Four people were brought in for questioning.

The were taken overnight from the Sunrise Bus company yard in the 10000 block of South Torrence Avenue, but were not discovered missing until about 5 a.m. on Friday.

“The buses exhibited damage and were in various states of disassembly,” police said in a written statement.

The owner of the buses says the stolen and destroyed buses represent a $250,000 loss for him. Gregory Bonnett  says his buses were hot- wired, brought to the scrap yard and scrapped between 6:30 p.m. Thursday and 5 a.m. Friday.

The bus company provides school buses for the Chicago Public Schools, but no kids were affected, as backup buses were used in place of the stolen vehicles.

Police were able to use the GPS data from the buses to track them to Gonzalez Auto and Truck Parts, 3405 S. Lawndale Ave.

After hours of searching, police pulled five vehicles from the auto yard, along with two dogs, and a man identified as the owner was found hiding in the building’s crawl space, CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman reports. Police brought in a total of four people for questioning.

Police found some of the buses had been shredded into a pile. A scrap metal sales expert contacted by CBS said the value of those vehicles, if all were shredded, would be $15,000.

Gonzalez Auto and Truck Parts, 3405 S. Lawndale Ave., has racked up variety of violations since 2007, city officials said. The offenses have ranged from operating without a license to having problems with their scales to selling and preparing food on site.

“This business is licensed to dismantle used autos and the resale of used auto parts. But, clearly, their license activity does not include unlawfully dismantling stolen vehicles under the cover of darkness and cutting and shredding them,” a spokeswoman for Business Affairs and Consumer Protection tells CBS 2.

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