Investigators said it started with a rash of stolen ATVs, firearms, and other personal property throughout Bay County. Initially presumed separate occurences over the past month or so turned out to all be connected to a drug ring with connections to Atlanta and Albany, Georgia.
"Instead of buying the drugs with money, they were buying them with stolen equipment," said Bay County Sheriff's Office Major Tommy Ford.
Bay County Sheriff's deputies first arrested Octavius Weston and Shandur Grace last Wednesday for their alleged involvement, but not until a jail house interview with another suspect, Jonathon Gibson, did they realize the full scope of the illegal activity.
"Are we talking I can count them on one hand or are we talking in the double digits?" asked NewsChannel 7's Bryan Anderson.
"I would say double digits. We had 12 ATVs stolen and over the past few weeks we have seen an increase in residential burglaries that were concerning to us," answered Major Ford.
Working with the Panama City and Lynn Haven Police Departments, officers quickly put two and two together and said they managed to arrest seven more people over the following two days.
Jerry Mills, Wesley Hensley, Lance Eason, Dean Sinor, Donta Spurlin, and Bill Buchanan were all busted.
"They were getting somewhere betweeen $1,000 and $1,500 per ATV. That's what they were getting at a street level for them," said Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin.
Authorities called the arrests significant and when you look at some their rap sheets you can tell why. They have been arrested for everything from crack cocaine to battery, theft, and reckless driving, dating as far back as at least 1997.
"They're targeting those specific types of things to do to support their drug trade," said Chief Ervin.
"That's very important especially to the victims who lost their property to these subjects," added Ford.
Their most recent arrests are no doubt a major dent in this alleged drug ring, but the case doesn't appear to be closed just yet. Sheriff's officials said more arrests and more charges could be on the way.
As of Monday night only one of the nine suspects, Jerry Mills, had reportedly posted bond leaving the other eight behind bars in the Bay County Jail.