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Cops: 2 caught red-handed with stolen A/C units

SNELLVILLE -- The officer wasn't buying that the four air-conditioning units in the back of the Chevy Trailblazer had been, as one suspect reportedly claimed, just lying on the side of a subdivision street.

Gwinnett police arrested two Lithonia men Friday after catching them red-handed with A/C units they'd ripped at random from homes on Erdly Lane and Eastmont Trail in Snellville, police said.

Police responding to a theft call about 1 a.m. pulled over the white SUV that matched a description given by victims.

While speaking to the driver, Isaias Garcia, 28, an officer noticed the four units in the SUV. Garcia initially claimed they were moving the units as part of their work, but later admitted to thieving them, according to a Gwinnett police report.

The passenger, Charles Ellis, 46, initially told police he'd "found the units on the side of the road in a random subdivision" but later admitted to theft, the report states.

Garcia, who is being held for immigration authorities, was also cited for an open beer he was drinking in the vehicle, the report states. Both suspects remain jailed without bond.

Thieves are known to covet the copper tubing in air conditioning units, which can turn quick profits at recycling centers. Police throughout Georgia have dealt with a scourge of copper theft in recent years as payouts at scrap metal yards spiked as much as 300 percent.

Georgia legislators enacted a law in 2007 that makes stealing and hawking anything from beer kegs to copper tubing a felony if the metal is worth more than $500. Both Ellis and Garcia face felony charges.

A Gwinnett police special unit meant to thwart copper theft was disbanded in 2006 after several key arrests were made.