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Man charged with releasing refrigerant

36172925_sUSA: A serial air conditioning thief faces up to 15 years in prison after being charged with releasing refrigerant to atmosphere.

According to local TV station KSN News, Wichita police have charged 43-year-old Byron Stuckey with three counts of venting a class ll substance. A conviction carries a potential 15 years federal prison term and a fine up to $750,000.

Police say he is suspected of stealing air conditioning units dating back to 2008. He was arrested by police in 2012.

Stuckey pleaded guilty to stealing copper from dozens of air conditioning units in 2012 but the judge suspended the sentence to 12 months of probation. Police alleged that he was responsible for 68 air conditioning thefts in the area and was believed to have stolen ac units from homes as well as eight local churches.

He is not the first air conditioning thief to be prosecuted in the USA for wantonly releasing refrigerant to atmosphere. Last year, in Ohio, 35-year-old Martin C Eldridge III was sentenced to 21 months and 20 days in prison and an additional 200 hours community service for violating the US Clean Air Act by cutting air conditioning pipes during the act of stealing air conditioning units for their scrap copper.

In this latest case, Wichita authorities are now seeking further charges in an effort to dissuade repeat offenders.

Explaining this latest course of action, Capt Jose Salcido of Wichita Police Department told KSN News: “We do follow the traditional model sometimes and arrest them for that, but when we have a serial offender, we try to think of novel ways, so I was sitting in bed at 3 o’clock in the morning, woke up, and I had me an epiphany, and I was like, could this be an environmental crime?”

Related stories:

Prison for releasing R22 to atmosphere October 28, 2014
USA: A Detroit man who pleaded guilty to releasing R22 to the environment has been sentenced to 27 months in prison. Read more…

Scrap dealer must pay for refrigerant release – July 30, 2014
USA: A Wisconsin scrap metal merchant has agreed to pay $20,000 in forfeitures, court costs, and mandatory surcharges for intentionally releasing ozone-depleting refrigerant to atmosphere. Read more…

Prison for AC thief who released R22 – November 7, 2014
USA: An Ohio man has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for releasing R22 refrigerant to atmosphere. Read more…

BLOG: All laws and no enforcement – July 6, 2014
There have been plenty of criticisms of the huge number of EU laws that have been imposed upon us. The laws may be many but the conviction to enforce them appears to be missing, argues Cooling Post editor Neil Everitt. Read more…

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