LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies with the Lee County Sheriff's Office have apprehended two suspects in recent air conditioner theft cases in Lehigh Acres and Buckingham.
The suspects have been identified as 19-year-old Caleb Meredith and 18-year-old Derrick Harrison.
The case unfolded around 3:30 p.m. Thursday April 29, 2010. LCSO deputies were dispatched to the area of Edwards Drive and Tuckahoe Road in Lehigh Acres to investigate a suspicious discovery. In the woods, residents reportedly found two flat screen televisions still in boxes and several storage boxes filled with tools and office supplies.
After collecting the items, members of the Lee County Sheriff's Office Aviation Unit conducted a flyover in an attempt to locate any additional items.
According to authorities, "While in the air, a truck was seen driving through the woods towards the area where the items were found. When the truck driver saw deputies, he immediately stopped and turned around. Due to the nature of the incident, deputies conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle in the area of Palm Beach Boulevard and Styles Road."
The driver of the truck was identified as Meredith, while Harrison was the passenger.
According to the LCSO, "The investigation revealed both men had broken into a storage facility located at 21320 Meyrick Lane, Alva and removed items consistent with the items recovered in the woods."
The suspects, who have been taken to the Lee County Jail, are now each facing charges of burglary into a structure and grand theft.
While in custody, authorities continued their investigation and they now believe that Meredith is responsible for a large number of the thefts involving air conditioning units in Lehigh Acres and Buckingham. Detectives believe Meredith was selling the scrap metal contained in the air conditioning units and pawning other items of value.
In addition to the initial charges, Meredith is now facing eight counts of felony burglary into a structure causing more than $1000 in damage and eight counts of felony larceny theft of items valued at more than $300 but less than $5000. Authorities believe that Meredith is responsible for crimes that occurred at several Ft. Myers locations, including Horseshoe Lane, Springline Lane and Sunny Crest Lane.