Eight people have been arrested in a string of air conditioning unit burglaries totaling more than $1.5 million from housing developments across Miami-Dade, according to officials.
The arrests are the culmination of a one year investigation called "Operation Cool Down" and led by Miami-Dade Police to identify the ring of burglars who had been stealing the units from Lennar Homes developments, said Police Spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.
The men, between 34 and 52 years of age, were arrested on charges of grand theft for either stealing the air conditioning units or buying property they believed to be stolen, according to arrest reports.
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The men were identified by police as Ariel Perez-Estupinan, Orlando Noriega, Jose Miguel Ortiz, Mahe Batista, Alejandro Llanes, Nelson Leon Borges, Pablo Rafael Mesa Barquin and Jose Antonion Alvarado.
Estupinan, who Zabaleta called the "ring leader," along with Batista were also charged with dealing in stolen burglary, criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools, according to arrest forms.
The burglars were able to easily remove the air conditioning units because they all own air conditioning businesses or are installers in the air conditioning industry, according to Zabaleta. They were able to remove the outside units and then enter the home to remove the inside component without damaging the equipment, Zabaleta said. They would then sell the units at a very low price, he said.
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Police were able to find the alleged burglars' storage unit in southwest Miami-Dade where 10 air conditioning units were recovered, Zabaleta said.
The air conditioning units were stolen from four Lennar Homes developments across Miami-Dade:
- Grand Lakes Estates at 6523 SW 164 Ave. in Kendall
- Kendall Square at 16985 SW 90 Terr. in Kendall
- Isles at Bayshore/The Tides at 21864 SW 93 Path in Cutler Bay
- Isles at Oasis at 128 SE 28 Terr. in Homestead
Miami-Dade Police conducted the investigation with the Hammocks division, the the State Attorney's Office, the Hialeah Police Department and the Town of Cutler Bay.
"We have a lot of new construction and these are the types of crimes that are related to new construction," Cutler Bay Town Manager Rafael Casals said of the investigation. "I think it's going to make the whole neighborhood there a lot safer."
A representative from Lennar Corporation said the company is giving out its appreciation to the good work from the local police, offering their sincere thanks.
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