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Police searching for 'bus bandit' who's scammed customers out of thousands

A man is accused of stealing luxury motor coaches, causing unsuspecting customers to be scammed out of thousands of dollars.

(WTOL) - Police are conducting a manhunt expanding across two states for a man known as the "Bus Bandit."

Derrick Jones is accused of stealing luxury motor coaches, causing unsuspecting customers to be scammed out of thousands of dollars.

The Erie Township Police Chief said this case is very unusual, and those who are affected want answers.

Two weeks ago, a Toledo group had a signed contract to travel on a charter bus to Brooklyn, New York for hometown hero Robert Easter Jr's title fight.

But upset fan Lena Walker said Jones never showed up, leaving the group stranded in the parking lot of a Home Depot in the early hours of the morning.

"He stopped calling, and stopped answering his phone," said James Easter, Robert Easter Jr's business manager. "We called every bus company in the city and were not able to get a bus."

Easter said they gave the man $2,200 up front and none of the money has been returned to them, leaving the fans out of luck and out of hundreds of dollars.

"He's a crook, he's a thief," said upset fan Michael Barner.

"He should be penalized, maybe jail time," Walker said.

Easter said he believes they aren't the only group affected by Jones.

"From the grapevine, I think he already got some other people on the hook right now. Just taking their money. Yes, taking their money," Easter said.

In a desperate search for answers, Easter contacted WTOL to look into Jones and his questionable business practices. A background check revealed his criminal past, with convictions dating back more than 30 years in Lucas County.

Jones' most recent offense was in 2015, spending time behind bars for receiving stolen property. That property was a $100,000 luxury bus out of Illinois.

This wasn't his first time committing that same crime. In 2006, Jones ruined a trip to Texas for 22 people after police arrested him for stealing another bus.

The bus Jones was supposed to use to take the boxing fans to Brooklyn was also stolen. That bus, stolen out of Nashville, was found at a mechanics stop in Monroe, Michigan 500 miles away.

Police say Jones tried to cover his tracks by stripping the VIN number from the bus. However, police discovered other evidence that was enough to issue a warrant for his arrest.

"I would have never thought that was a stolen bus, or that he was into stealing buses," Easter said. This shocking turn of events caused Easter to say he's learned an important lesson.

"Do a little more investigating, and go with a more reliable bus company," he said.

Erie Township police have been trying to track Jones down for more than a week. He's been charged with receiving stolen property, and once caught will be extradited to Tennessee to face similar charges.

This case has also caught the attention of the Better Business Bureau, who says to do your research before hiring a bus company so this doesn't happen to you.

"You want a company that is established, that has maintenance, that has technology to make sure the bus is in good condition," said Dick Eppstein of the BBB.

It is also important to make sure the bus is insured and registered with the Department of Transportation. You can find all this information online.