Eight men were arrested last week in connection with the theft of air-conditioning equipment valued at more than $1.5 million from construction sites in south Miami-Dade, county police said.
The investigation began a year ago, when authorities recovered an air-conditioning unit that had been stolen from a housing development.
Police said two of the people arrested were stalking new housing developments to steal their air-conditioning equipment. The suspects stole units at Isles at Bayshore in Cutler Bay, Isles at Oasis in Homestead, and Grand Lakes Estates and Kendall Square in West Kendall. All four are Lennar subdivisions.
Three others were accused of buying stolen goods. Police didn’t explain the role of the others.
The police press release says that the total cost of the equipment amounts to $1.5 million, but does not say how many units were stolen.
A police video captured the moment in which, at full daylight, Ariel Pérez Estupiñán, 37, and Mahe Batista, 34, entered four residencies located on Southwest 93rd Street, according to the arrest report. With a lever and a drill, the suspects removed the air-conditioning units inside and outside the houses and took them away.
The total value of those units was nearly $20,000.
The arrest report of José Miguel Ortiz, 43, says he bought an air-conditioning unit valued at $4,800 from Pérez Estupiñán for only $1,000. Ortiz later confessed to the police that the unit was stolen and he was arrested.
Another buyer was Orlando Noriega, 41. The police reached him through a GPS device planted in the unit. Noriega told the police he had bought the unit, valued at about $8,000, for $1,600 cash from an unknown person on the street. Noriega did not have a receipt and told the police that he believed the unit had been stolen.
It seems that they also used the residencies of others to store the stolen units.
While watching Pérez Estupiñán, a Miami-Dade police detective saw Alejandro Llanes, 46, receiving an air-conditioning unit that Pérez Estupiñán had just stolen from the Isles at Bayshore. Llanes stored the unit, worth $5,000, in his garage.
The police arrested him on Sept. 17.
Pérez Estupiñán and Batista have been charged with third-degree grand theft, burglary, criminal mischief, and possession of burglary tools. Batista is also charged with cocaine possession.
Llanes, Noriega and Ortiz each face one charge of third-degree theft.
The police have not made public the roles of three other arrested persons — Nelson León Borges, 40, Pablo Rafael Mesa Barquín, 40, and José Antonio Alvarado, 52.
The Miami-Dade and Cutler Bay police conducted the investigation in collaboration with the Hialeah police and the state attorney’s office.