Air Conditioner Thieves Face Big Federal Punishment

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Air Conditioner Thieves Face Big Federal Punishment due to the Federal Clean Air Act. If you know anyone (and hopefully you don’t)who is stealing HVAC equipment and selling the units’ copper and aluminum for their scrap value, here is something you can tell them that may convince them to make a different career choice:

Law enforcement is wielding a big stick against air conditioning equipment thieves–the Federal Clean Air Act.

You see, when these criminals haul away a unit or its parts, they will often cut lines containing refrigerants, which can result in ozone-depleting gases being released into the atmosphere. This violates federal law and can carry punishments of prison time and whopping fines!

Recently, a Wichita man was indicted by the federal government on three counts of venting these “Class II” substances when he allegedly cut copper tubing on units stolen in 2012 and 2014. Wichita Police Department Captain Jose Salcido said that these AC thieves might get $50 for scrap copper from a unit. The alleged Wichita thief, Byron Stuckey, is facing a potential sentence of five years and $250,000 in fines for each of the three counts in violation of the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act was also used last year for the first time in Ohio to get a guilty plea out of a Columbus man who was part of a crew that stole at least 49 air conditioning units to sell the copper for scrap during a late-summer crime spree in 2013.

Martin Eldridge admitted that he cut the air conditioning tubing, releasing R-22 refrigerant into the air.

“The release of ozone depleting substances can cause serious harm to public health, including skin cancer, cataracts, and suppression of the immune system,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio.  “The defendant’s continual theft of air conditioner parts was illegal and a clear violation of the Clean Air Act.  As this defendant has learned, anyone who thinks that breaking the law is worth the risk should think again.”

Eldridge’s punishment includes prison time and 200 hours of community service.

So thieves, please do the world a favor and pick a different line of work.

And, of course, always remember to contact your HVAC pros at Daffan Cooling & Heating when you are dealing with refrigerants. We have the equipment to capture these regulated chemicals to keep them from damaging the environment.