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Johnston Authorities Track Down Stolen Four-Wheelers

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — Johnston County authorities say they have rounded up a band of motor thieves. Four-wheeled vehicles kept disappearing, but they were not cars. They were ATVs.

So far, detectives have seized $30,000 worth of four-wheelers. They believe that eight people are responsible for the operation.

They may not be cars, but they are powerful, fast and cost more than you might think.

Milton Upchurch's Grizzly 4 x 4 is one of a dozen or more ATVs that the thieves have stolen from Harnett, Johnston and Wilson Counties and then sold on the streets.

He and Ronnie Hines could not believe it when they received a call from the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

"I said 'you've got it?' Then they asked if I wanted it back and I said 'yeah'," said Hines.

Investigators have spent months tracking down these stolen ATVs. Some were found a long way from home.

"We actually had to go as far as West Virginia to actually get a stolen four-wheeler back into Johnston County," said Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

He says this is just part one of "Operation ATV."

"The second round-up will be shortly here. We are about to go out now and arrest the people. That is the second round-up. To me, that is as important if not more important than finding the four-wheelers," said Bizzell.

Bizzell says his officers hope to make eight arrests by sometime Tuesday. All of those people face felony charges.

They also hope to recover at least six more ATVs and return them to their rightful owners.

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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