The ambulance service owners told Eyewitness News that 40 of their trucks have been stolen over the last month. Then on Monday, there was a huge break in the case when a GPS tracking system indicated some of the emergency vehicles were in the scrap yard in the 4400 block of Creekmont.
From SkyEye 13 HD, you could see several white ambulances. Those emergency trucks were among the many vehicles in Texas Port Recycling's northwest Houston scrap yard just waiting to be crushed.
"It doesn't make any sense at all," said ambulance owner Vincent Isopehi.
And the big problem is that police say all of these ambulances appear to have been stolen and sold to the scrap yard illegally.
"They see a good, nice-looking ambulance, running ambulance, and they crush it," said Darlington Ofuefle with Greater Houston EMS Inc.
The men told us they own Baytex EMS, Life Care EMS, and Greater Houston EMS Inc. They say each of their southwest Houston area private ambulance companies have been getting hit pretty hard by unknown auto thieves.
"This ring has been going on for the past one month. And last week, they stole one of my vehicles," said Isopehi.
The men told us they started putting tracking devices in their remaining fleet last week. Then on Monday morning, they got an alert the stolen trucks were at Texas Port Recycling, so they called police.
"I mean, it stopped our business, and the money invested in it, too. It's, like, gone," said Ofuefle.
Undercover investigators tell Eyewitness News they have one suspect in custody. They say it appears the culprits were selling the trucks for $500 and $700 at the scrap yard. The victims say their emergency vehicles are worth much more.
"With the equipment and everything, about $17,000 to $18,000,"said Isopehi.
A spokesman from Texas Port Recycling, Joe Rosen, says the company is not in the business of buying stolen metal. Rosen says the unnamed company that sold the ambulances to the scrap yard is a licensed salvage dealer, and it submitted proper state licenses and forms to complete the sale. He says the company told Texas Port Recycling workers it was licensed to haul ambulances from a lot of places.
Administrators from the scrap yard say they are cooperating with police. Police say this is an ongoing investigation, but some of the ambulance service owners are asking how someone can sell stolen vehicles like that to scrap yards without a title.
Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices