U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland has returned an eleven-count indictment charging Derrick Lamont Jones, 56, and Kelly Marie Thomas, 50, both of Toledo, with conspiracy to transport stolen vehicles, possession of stolen vehicles, operating a chop shop, violation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to the indictment, from 2003 to 2019, the defendants are accused of stealing charter buses, altering and disguising them to avoid law enforcement detection and organizing and marketing for-profit trips, without incurring the cost of legitimately obtaining charter buses. The defendants allegedly purported to own several motorcoach companies that offered and provided charter transportation to passengers in Ohio, including Destiny Tours, Kelly Tours, Marie’s Tour’s and Travel, Elite Tours, and GT Tours. At no point were the defendant’s companies ever incorporated under the laws of any state, including Ohio and at no point in time did any of these companies receive FMCSA operating authority or complete the FMCSA registration process, states the indictment.
The defendants allegedly defaced, disguised, and removed the identity of the stolen motorcoach buses by painting over previous bus company logos and markings. After having stolen and defaced the buses, the defendants allegedly advertised charter passenger transportation services on the internet, social media, and in local newspapers. The defendants are accused of contracting with a Toledo-based church group to provide charter bus service from Toledo to New York. This trip never took place, and money collected by the defendants prior to the trip was never returned, according to the indictment.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, each defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal records, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, Midwestern Region, with significant assistance by the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Ohio Division; the Ohio State Highway Patrol; Toledo Police Department; and the Michigan State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley A. Futrell.