WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita police say a scrap metal theft that netted about $50 in profit for the suspect is now being investigated as a federal crime.
The federal indictment is against Byron Stuckey. He is charged with three counts of venting a class 2 substance.
Police say he is suspected of stealing air conditioning units dating back to 2008. He was arrested by police in 2012.
Wichita police say when the copper tubing of an air conditioning unit is cut, it can release hydrochlorofluorocarbon or freon into the air. That chemical depletes the ozone.
Wichita police say a conviction for three counts carries a potential 15 years federal prison term and a fine up to $750,000.
“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?” said Capt. Jose Salcido, Wichita Police Department.
Salcido says this is the first time they’ve done anything like this in our area. They’re hoping that it will send the right message to potential offenders.