Police have arrested one man wanted for a rash of bubblegum machine thefts across East Tennessee. They are still looking for the other suspect.
The thieves are stealing or tampering with the machines in order to get to the change inside. Rick McJunkins, the owner of RACI Vending estimates he's lost more than $30,000 over the past decade because of the suspects.
The loss has put the East Tennessean on a man-hunt and mission ever since he discovered he was losing machines and cash.
"It's pretty much taken my life over," McJunkins said. "I'm not a person that's going to stand for it. I'm just being a man. What if somebody hits you over the head every Friday when you've got your check on your way home?"
This week, McJunkins approached one of the two men police issued a warrant for, Jocob Roddy. Afraid he would get away, the vending company owner grabbed a hold of the suspect.
"I had to rush in, he was in a vehicle and I took him out of the vehicle and he went to jail," McJunkins said.
"A victim is a victim and that's the main thing. There is a loss every time these machines aren't making money or he has to replace them," Sweetwater Police Chief Eddie Bynum said.
The candy machine thefts aren't the only vending machines Sweetwater detectives are looking into. From Monroe to Meigs County, police are seeing soda machines simply opened up or broken into.
"If you see anyone not in a proper uniform or vehicle fooling with a machine, if you could let authorities know so we can investigate, that would be best," Bynum said.
Authorities are still looking for James Dixon, Jr. Both are from the Chattanooga area. Bynum says both men could face at least half a dozen charges related to the thefts.
As for McJunkins, he and his family are just ready to get back to the sweeter side of candy sales, get their company back on firm footing, and see business operate more normally.
"We could have made it through this economic downturn and held on," McJunkins said. "This theft has put me on the verge of losing my company."