Police have made an arrest in the case of a car stolen off a Panama City dealership's lot and stripped for parts. According to the Panama City Police Department, Jeremy Jones is the first of several suspects targeted for arrest in the case.
Jones, 26, was arrested Saturday after a traffic stop in Panama City Beach. Police said Jones was driving a rented U-Haul truck that a tipster told police contained parts taken from a 2013 Mazda CX9 reported stolen from John Lee Nissan/Mazda on January 28. The truck was rented in Albany, Georgia by a relative of Jones, police said.
The stolen parts were discovered when the rental truck was searched, police said. Jones was charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and driving with a suspended license.
Investigators said Jones and at least two accomplices stole the $38,000 car, drove it to a wooded area and stripped it of sellable parts. "They each have had some sort of individual dealing with automobiles," said Detective Ray Perkins. "I can't say specifically who did the actual work… but we believe that it was done by these individuals."
According to James Lett, the dealership's Mazda sales manager, the incident has led to new internal controls to prevent future thefts. "We're not exactly sure how the keys were taken," said Lett. "We've changed some security measures at the dealership to make sure at night that our keys are protected like they should be."
Police plan to return the recovered parts to the dealership where the shell of the car is being stored. Lett said an insurance claim is being processed.
Detective Perkins said citizens' tips complement old fashioned police work. "Citizens want to assist and it's good when they do," said Perkins. "We can follow through with these tips and a lot of times it helps break a lot of our major cases."
Perkins said there have been other recent cases involving the movement of stolen property between Panama City and Albany and police are investigating whether there is a link to the stolen vehicle case.