NEW PORT RICHEY — Police pulled over Gary Lee Hixon's green Ford pickup truck Saturday night. Their report doesn't indicate why, but it does portray a man who said he was out of work and desperate for money to support his family.
Once officers saw what Hixon was hauling in the back of the truck — two air-conditioner coils made of valuable copper — they say he admitted stealing them and many more.
Hixon, 32, led New Port Richey officers to evidence of other thefts and was charged with three counts each of grand theft and criminal mischief.
He was released from the Pasco County jail the same day on his own recognizance.
Hixon of 5135 Hemlock St. in New Port Richey showed a detective where he took apart two air-conditioning units from Windtree Apartments in Port Richey to get the copper inside, according to a police report. Their value: $3,000 to $6,000.
Hixon also told police he stole a unit from a building on Marine Parkway, valued at $3,000, the report said.
His biggest take, according to the report, was from a plaza on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. There, Hixon and another man stole 10 units valued at $20,000 and cut the copper from them to sell for scrap, the report said.
Hixon has previous arrests dating to 1998, on charges including worthless checks and drug possession.
New Port Richey police did not release their investigative reports, saying the case is "still very much open and active."
"It's going to take some more background investigation to see if we're going to be talking to him again," New Port Richey Capt. Jeff Harrington said Monday.
Copper theft, which rises and falls with the going rate for scrap metal, remains a problem despite crackdowns on both the thieves and the businesses who buy scrap from them.
"There's always a market," Harrington said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.