Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story identified a business, which the sheriff now says was not involved.
A joint investigation by the Richmond and Columbia county sheriff’s offices has uncovered a theft ring based on Belair Road.
According to a Richmond County sheriff’s news release, investigators looked into the shop, 4040 Belair Road, which did not have a valid business license.
The investigation resulted in the dismantling of an interstate motor vehicle theft ring.
Four men used an unmarked roll-back tow truck to steal disabled vehicles left along Interstate 20 and other area roads, then haul them to recycling and salvage yards for money, authorities said.
Police have identified seven vehicles stolen from November to March. Two were taken from residential areas.
Three were taken from Interstate 20 – two in Aiken County and one in Madison County, Ga. The two remaining vehicles were taken from Bobby Jones Expressway and Willis Foreman Road.
Police have charged Vernon Jerome Neely Jr. and Elmer Howard Gilman with felony theft by taking. Gilman also faces charges of theft by receiving stolen property, misdemeanor theft by taking and felony possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine).
Police continue to search for Vernon Jerome Neely Sr. and Joseph Clayton Thaxton.
The older Neely faces three felony counts of theft by receiving stolen property and three counts of felony theft by deception. Thaxton faces a felony charge of theft by receiving stolen property and felony theft by deception.