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Main charged in thefts from Hudson AC units

David Longspaugh called the air conditioning installers the morning of May 23 when his 6-week-old air conditioning unit wasn't working. He figured something had gone wrong with the installation.

"It was brutal for anybody to even come into work," he said.

That's when Longspaugh, broker and owner of Re/Max Sunset Realty in Bayonet Point, discovered coils from the office's AC units had been stolen.

In the past few months, copper coils and tubing have been stolen from several AC units around Pasco County. Donovan Riffey of Hudson was charged with 11 cases of grand theft Thursday after stealing parts from an estimated $200,000 worth of air conditioning units between February and May, authorities said.

Some of the damaged units had to be completely replaced.

Authorities say Riffey sold 2,618 pounds of copper parts for scrap, although it's unclear how much money he made.

Detectives are investigating to determine whether anyone else was involved.

Riffey, 47, stole parts from several locations, including the Port Richey Hobby Lobby, two Hudson Sav-A-Lot stores and a Hudson Beall's, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Six units were damaged at Bayonet Square Plaza in Hudson, where Longspaugh's Re/Max office is situated. Longspaugh said he saw the damaged units and only about 40 percent of the copper was taken.

Deputies got a break in the case after the May 16 theft of a $1,000 unit from a Hudson home. Two witnesses saw a truck that looked like Riffey's at the home around the time of the theft, authorities said. One witness said he bought the unit from Riffey for $250.

That week, Riffey also damaged four units worth $32,000 on the roof of the Hobby Lobby at 8615 Little Road in Port Richey, authorities said. Parts of those units were painted black so they could be easily identified if stolen.

Riffey sold 641 pounds worth of black-painted parts to the County Recycling Center in Hudson between May 17 and 18, authorities said.

After his arrest Thursday, Riffey admitted to stealing parts from 11 places and said he did it to get money to pay his bills, deputies said.

Longspaugh said he thought it was appalling that someone would disrupt businesses for "just a few hundred bucks."

"It was ungodly in our office," he said. "If the guy came, I'd give him 500 bucks not to do it."

Riffey was caught because of good detective work and help from witnesses and the public, said sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin.

"It's good to get this guy off the roof, off the streets and into the jail," Tobin said.

Tobin urged people to be aware of their neighborhoods and businesses, especially at night, and to alert authorities of any suspicious activity.

Main charged in thefts from Hudson AC units 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 8:30pm]
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